Granger’s continued, heartless snubbing of sugar workers is indecent

Dear Editor,
The sugar workers, those still in a job, wrote to David Granger more than once. They have shown up in front of his office numerous times. He has never responded to their letters, other than a heartless response once telling them he has referred their concerns to Noel Holder. He never once came out of his office, if he was ever there, to acknowledge the sugar workers and let them know their concerns are important to him; for him, they were invisible. Noel Holder, for his part, has never acknowledged receiving instructions from Granger to deal with the sugar workers’ concern and has never shown any interest in the concerns of sugar workers. The bottom line is that as these hard-working sugar workers continue to struggle, David Granger and APNU/AFC have not just snubbed the sugar workers, they have made it pellucid: they simply do not care, they are heartless.
Having closed four sugar estates, directly fired more than 9000 sugar workers, totally decimated the village economy in the closed estates’ geographic areas, they also have subjected the remaining sugar workers to indentured conditions. These sugar workers have had to work for five years now without any wage increase. Granger and APNU/AFC had promised sugar workers 20% annual wage increases. Not only have they betrayed the sugar workers, not keeping their promise, but they also froze the workers’ wages since 2015. Since collective bargaining started in the world, this is the longest ever wage freeze anywhere. It is Granger’s legacy. It is APNU/AFC’s shame. It is in the tradition of their parent organisation, the PNC. The only other time Guyanese sugar workers endured a wage freeze was in 1982, 1985 and 1986. The facts speak for themselves – sugar workers in Guyana over more than 100 years have only had a wage freeze three times in the 1980s, under the PNC and now five years in a row, courtesy of the PNC again, this time under an assumed name, APNU/AFC.
With 25 days to elections, Granger and APNU/AFC are succumbing to pressure but sugar workers remain invisible. Granger now promised to bring back the cash grant for schoolchildren, clearly another empty promise. Even as he promises to bring back the cash grant, Granger does not apologise for stopping the programme and taking away $10 – $38B from the pockets of working-class families the last five years. Granger is also again promising laid-off sugar workers land for agriculture. They made that promise initially when they closed the sugar estates. Four years have gone, they have given away some of the lands to their friends and cronies but not an inch to any sugar worker. Suddenly, they have brought back to life the dead, empty, false promise.
The most galling election gimmick, however, has to be their desperate house lot distribution scam. They have started this week calling in their supporters, asking them to make house lot deposits and giving them a piece of paper entitling them to a house lot after the election. But there is no location for the house lots. It is a scam, nothing else. After five years of closing down the housing ministry, after not developing a single housing scheme, in the last three weeks before elections, they are giving out willy-nilly pieces of paper for non-existent house lots.
Clearly, these new promises are election gimmicks. But because they know there is no sugar worker they can fool anymore, these heartless people cruelly ignore the struggling sugar workers. These are not only productive people, these are Guyanese citizens, totally abandoned by their government. Mr Granger cannot hide behind his colleagues in APNU/AFC. The buck stops at his feet. He cannot represent himself as decent, honest and a man of integrity when he treats the sugar workers as second-class citizens.
Shamelessly, Granger now claims sugar workers should be grateful to him for “preserving” sugar in Guyana. In his warped mind, the sugar workers still employed should praise him because he could have closed all the estates, not just four, and then the wage freeze would not have been an issue. In all of this, Moses Nagamootoo is silent. He is the one that used to chant Jagdeo is the “champion of the Earth”, but he (Nagamootoo) is the “champion of the sugar workers”. Yet, as these sugar workers are trampled on and treated as second-class citizens, Nagamootoo’s voice has been muzzled. He salutes Granger and bows to him, while Granger heartlessly continues to snub the sugar workers. Nagamootoo’s side-kick, Ramjattan, is silent, too busy being depressed because even Nagamootoo is not supporting him for APNU/AFC’s Prime Ministerial candidate.

Dr Leslie Ramsammy