…in sugar belt
With the closure of four of the last seven estates in the sugar belt, THAT belt has certainly been tightened!! It’s the passing of not only an era but of an age. Can you imagine a Guyana without sugar? You’d have to exclude the entire coastland, which was only “humanised” by slave labour to facilitate sugar with thousands of miles of canals!
But the belts for the 7000 workers who were let go after the shutdown HAVE literally had to be tightened – for three Christmases in the case of Wales and two for the others. Was it a special dig at sugar workers that made the PNC drop the guillotine just before Christmas? For the longest while, this was the happiest periods in sugar workers’ homes – think why “masquerade” evolved at this time!
It wasn’t necessarily because they were devout Christians – but because of the more mundane reason that it was at this time the crop was “over” and they could amuse themselves.
Later, sugar workers received their “back pay” or “once-for-all” and later profit sharing at this time. The ensuing payout enabled workers to do their “Christmas shopping” for new clothes; buy some pieces of furniture and most importantly have a grand Christmas get together with family and friends. Rum would flow liberally, and the tables would be laden with food: it was the one time when sugar workers could live “like the massa”.
Those days have now ground to a halt – especially on the closed estates. Sure, some sugar workers will try to give their families a good time. But they know the ‘severance pay” which they received is fast dwindling – and the more responsible of them will cut back drastically. With no jobs provided for them to move into, the PNC Government is forcing sugar workers to repeat the history of the newly freed slaves to scrounge for themselves to subsist.
But the days of squatting on Crown land is over – so where will the fired sugar workers try to cultivate vegetables and other cash crops?? Unlike the time of Bookers, they can’t even go onto the sugar lands to scrounge for fish in the “swamp” that was created from fields under fallow. It’s like when the old planters forbid the freed slaves from using the “provision grounds”.
This Christmas on the sugar estates, then, will not be a merry one. It’ll be a time for doom and gloom – with which the rain and dark skies will be in harmony. The Government blithely talked about “diversifying” the closed estates to private buyers.
But even that talk has been shushed. So what? It’s only sugar workers lives at stake!
…and the rains
Yes…the December rains are here and your Eyewitness had wondered before how will the excess water flow off the fields onto the frontlands and into the seas on those estates that were closed. Most folks outside the sugar belt don’t appreciate what a service the sugar estates provided by keeping the drainage canals free from the lush tropical vegetation and sedimentation that blocks them up in months, if left unattended.
With those backlands now abandoned, a new great flood of Noah could’ve been in the offing!! Well, after looking closely at the budget allocations, responsibility for drainage in those areas have now been allocated to the NDIA. Now this will cost the Government almost as much as the “subsidy” which they refused to extend to sugar – as recommended by their own CoI!! You may say this is ‘penny wise and pound foolish” – but if you think as to who sugar workers are, you’ll understand.
The White Paper on the closure as presented to Parliament explicitly stated they were “PPP supporters”.
So implicitly, “Bun dem”!!
…and separation of Church and State
Your Eyewitness noticed the slew of activity by State institutions celebrating Christmas with a vengeance. While he enjoys the bonhomie as much as everyone else, haven’t we supposed to have constitutionally separated Church and State?