Sugar workers accused of disruptive behaviour placed on $1.2M bail

Police escorting some of those charged for protesting to court

Several sugar workers were on Tuesday place on a total of $1.2 million bail after they were charged with varying offences in relation to a protest action they held on Monday at East Canje, Berbice, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).
The sugar workers are being represented by Attorney Khemraj Ramjattan, who is also a parliamentarian and a former Government Minister who was integral in the downsizing of the sugar industry, which left thousands of sugar workers unemployed.
Regional Commander, Senior Superintendent Shivpersaud Bacchus had said 20 persons were arrested: 16 sugar workers; one car driver, two fishermen and a labourer.
During a protest action on Monday, the demonstrators had descended into disruptive behaviour, resulting in the intervention of the Police.
The arrested individuals on Tuesday appeared before Magistrate Renita Singh at the New Amsterdam Magistrate’s Court.
They were charged with obstructing the flow of traffic, unlawful assembly, intent to cause terror to the people present in that area by the use of wood to block the public road and damage to a wooden stall being the property of Shanolee Sinclair, valued at $70,000.
They all pleaded not guilty to obstructing the flow of traffic and were granted self-bail.
However, the other offences are indictable and as such they were not required to plead.
Police Prosecutor, Inspector Orin Joseph while noting that the prosecution was not objecting to bail, drew reference to a similar incidence on the East Coast of Demerara where those arrested for similar offences under similar circumstances were each placed on $300,000 bail.
Attorney-at-Law Khemraj Ramjattan, who is representing 18 of the accused, said many of them would not be able to make bail, pointing out that they have not been working for three weeks.
He argued that the workers are experiencing financial difficulties, adding that they were protesting seeking to get a better payment plan. Ramjattan said they all should be released on self-bail.
Magistrate Renita Singh set bail at $60,000 each for all of the charges.
Meanwhile, the other two accused are being represented by Attorney-at-Law Charlyn Artiga. They will all have to return to court on October 16.
Meanwhile, after the hearing, Ramjattan, who played in integral role in downsizing the sugar industry and who had even supported the retrenching of thousands of sugar workers without paying them severance, told the media that he and his team will be defending all of the charges.
Ramjattan, who during the 2018 budget debates told the National Assembly that the party must make hard decisions in relation to sugar; referring to the Alliance For Change, told the media outside of the court house on Tuesday that he received reports that some of the protesters were assaulted and had to seek medical attention.
“I will be speaking more on this issue as the days go by,” he said.
Asked the reason for his representation of the very sugar workers whom he once told the National Assembly used their money to purchase rum, he said: “They are entitled to more money.” (G4)