Paying severance to sugar workers is not a favour; it is the law

first_imgDear Editor,Thursday, October 18, was another day of shame, disgrace and infamy for Guyana. The President, the Prime Minister, and the APNU+AFC Ministers and MPs treated sugar workers as if they were not part of Guyana, while embracing a small group of counter-protesters organised by APNU/AFC to intimidate and harass peaceful sugar workers.They also ignored a group of Rastafarians protesting for the decriminalisation of marijuana.APNU/AFC’s dishonesty and hypocrisy know no bounds. It has been almost a year since more than 4,500 sugar workers were fired when three estates were closed. The Government paid them just about half their severance some four months later. Now, coming up to almost a year since they were retrenched, APNU/AFC has still not paid them the other half.There are also another 2,500 workers who were retrenched earlier, after Wales Estate was closed. Some of those are yet to be paid their severance, two years later. Last week, confronted in person, and under pressure from protesting sugar workers, President Granger promised them they would be paid as soon as Parliament meets again. Parliament met on Thursday, October 18. There was a notice of a Supplementary Budget to be considered by Parliament on October 30. That Supplementary Budget is for $7.5 billion, about $2.4billion of which is intended to pay the sugar workers who are owed severance.Thursday, October 18, also revealed huge advertisements in the daily newspapers, costing millions of dollars, with the Finance Minister gloating that APNU+AFC is doing a favour by paying sugar workers their severance. It is gross dishonesty for APNU+AFC to beat their chest and huff and puff as if they are doing the sugar workers a favour. Paying the severance is neither a favour to sugar workers nor is it any sort of generosity. Paying the severance will end the egregious violation of the law. In fact, the payment should now include interest owed on the late payments.If an advertisement costing millions had to be made, it should have been to apologise to the workers and their families. Hopefully, the Opposition would insist that the President and his ministers apologise to the workers.Many of those workers were on Thursday present in front of Parliament. The President came to speechify in Parliament, but ignored the workers, drove past them, never acknowledging them. The Prime Minister, too, walked past the workers, never even signalling that he had noticed them. This is the man who, not so long ago, had deemed himself the “champion of sugar workers”.Not a single APNU+AFC Minister, not a single APNUAFC MP, chose to acknowledge the sugar workers. They were invisible at the least, and less than human at worst.But, disgustingly, several of Granger’s Ministers and MPs graced the presence of a loud and intimidating group organised by APNU/AFC to harass and intimidate the sugar workers. They even infiltrated a group of Rastafarians who were there to peacefully advocate for the decriminalisation of marijuana.The Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, and his MPs acknowledged the presence of both the sugar workers and the Rastafarians. They engaged them in discussion, and offered their solidarity. These Jagdeo-led PPP MPs showed their humanity, identifying with their Guyanese sisters and brothers of different races, different political affiliations and ideas. In contrast, Granger, Nagamootoo, and the APNU/AFC MPs ignored sugar workers and Rastafarians, only acknowledging their own organised APNU/AFC protesters.Worse, on the day that the President came to speechify in Parliament, his Ministers and his MPs, aided and abetted by the Speaker, refused to treat the severance for sugar workers as an urgent matter. The Leader of the Opposition and his PPP MPs wanted to consider the severance issue, and to go through all the stages for the Supplementary Budget, so that the workers could be paid without further delays. This would have been the morally right thing to do, ending the breach of the law.Nagamootoo was the one who moved that the Parliament suspend business to accommodate the speech by the President, while further delaying payment for the workers.Now we learn that, while APNU/AFC are playing games with another stupid election gimmick, the payments cannot be made until the Parliament meets again, on October 30, to pass the Supplementary Budget. This means that the severance payment is not likely until closer to year-end. If they are honest and care much about these sugar workers, there is no need to wait until Parliament meets again. Further, not all workers will receive their severance payments. The workers from Wales, many among the protesters, will not be paid the long-overdue severance.The law has been breached. The violation continues in spite of the President’s promise to end the breach this week. Shamefully, APNU/AFC is forcing poor workers and their families to wait a little longer.It is even more shameful because the President today boasted that he and his Government are keeping the promise of the “Good Life” for every Guyanese.Respectfully,DrLeslie Ramsammylast_img

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