Opposition Chief Whip owes sugar workers apology for “blood sucker” slur – GAWU
Pressure is now mounting for Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones to apologise to workers across the sugar belt over his “blood sucker” comment during his presentation in the ongoing debates on the 2021 National Budget.
Jones was at the time speaking against the PPP/C’s $381.5 billion budget in the National Assembly on Monday, when he said that instead of the Guyana Sugar Corporation being the mainstay of Guyana’s economy, “GuySuCo is the blood sucker on the backs of the taxpayers.”
In a statement issued on Thursday, GAWU posited that Jones’s attack has crossed the line.
“He has insulted and embarrassed a significant contingent of Guyanese who have committed no wrong to deserve such a verbal lynching. Indeed, we believe Mr. Jones should do what is honourable and offer an apology,” the union noted, while adding in the same breath that it does not expect any modicum of responsibility and decency from the Opposition Chief Whip.
According to GAWU in the missive, Jones’s “jaundiced and…vitriol attack” was not just on the sugar corporation, but, by extension, on the thousands of Guyanese whose lives and livelihoods are supported by the industry.
“The Opposition Chief Whip labelled the sugar industry as the bloodsuckers that live on the backs of the Guyanese taxpayers. From all appearances, Mr. Jones’s sordid view extends to Guyanese in the sugar belt. Our Union finds the remarks by such a senior member of the political Opposition as disturbing and equally disconcerting,” GAWU stated.
The Union went on to express the view that Jones’s remark is a vivid demonstration of the level of contempt that he holds for sugar workers, whose contribution he clearly undervalues and seemingly despises.
“It seems the Opposition’s Chief Whip is either unaware or chooses to ignore that the sugar industry, for its travails, continues to make several tangible contributions to the nation. He seems to forget, conveniently, that the sugar workers themselves are taxpayers and do not get any ‘free rides’ as he apparently seeks to promote in his message, which took on, from our point of a view, a clearly divisive and partisan character. The utterances of Mr. Jones, we hold, are a continuation of the mercilessness the sugar industry was shown during the Coalition’s term in office,” the missive detailed.
While Jones’s tirade on the GuySuCo during his debate continued with him further saying that the sugar industry should be buried, GAWU pointed out that this should clear the minds of those who hold any doubts as to the APNU/AFC Coalition’s position on the fate of the sector.
“…Had the Coalition succeeded in a second term, the sugar industry, in the words of Mr Jones, would have been buried. The Opposition Chief Whip’s outburst is not surprising, but yet again confirms the contemptuous view that the wider Opposition holds for the sugar industry, despite utterances to the contrary. This has been pointed out in the past, and we are sure we will see such derisive talk in the future as well,” it contended.
The workers union further noted that while it recognises the denunciation of the sugar industry was seemingly intended to stir up feelings of disenchantment among a certain section of the Opposition support base, it has completely ignored Opposition supporters in the sugar industry.
“So, while Mr Jones was playing for the obvious gallery by his remarks, in our view, he has undermined his credentials as a national leader. In fact, if you ask us, he has demonstrated that he is not a leader for all, but just some. It goes on to question his place in the nation’s highest forum, which imbues all to inspire national, not prejudiced interests,” GAWU added.
The union’s call for an apology from Jones comes on the heels of Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, in his debate presentation, also condemning the Opposition Chief Whip’s remarks and calling for him to apologise.
Mustapha said the MP’s comment was shameful, and that he took “his eyes pass the sugar workers”.
As such, the Agriculture Minister is adamant that Jones must publicly apologise to the sugar workers.
“Anyone who has decency, anyone who is supporting the workers, must condemn that blatant, wicked statement. That is the kind of way they treat workers, that is why they are over there. They tried their best to rig the elections to stay in power because they know people will not vote for them,” Mustapha stated.
The APNU/AFC Coalition had downsized the sugar industry by closure of four estates – Wales, Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara (Enmore), placing some seven thousand sugar workers on the breadline.
However, the PPP/C has since promised to reopen the closed estates and return the sugar industry to a viable state.
Since taking office in August 2020, the Government has injected in the sector $9 billion dollars, of which $2 billion is in the 2021 budget.