In 1895, Mary T. Lathrap wrote a very inspiring poem, entitled “Judge Softly”, or “Walk a Mile in His Moccasins”, about the need for compassion, kindness, empathy and understanding; which is so lacking in our world today. She implored her readers to ‘just walk a mile in his moccasins’ before we condemn and criticise.
During its 5 years in office, the Coalition did the most unconscionable acts. In 2016/2017, the Coalition Government made the harshest decision ever when it placed on the breadline more than 30 thousand persons across the country. The domino effect was devastating. In the sugar industry alone, 7,500 persons were thrown under the bus; their worst crime was that the majority of them were perceived as PPP members, supporters or sympathisers.
The Coalition was unconcerned about the sufferings, the deprivations, hunger, and the host of social ills which suddenly engulfed and devastated these people. No one in the Coalition asked the question about how these people would survive, and even the severance pay given to these workers, which was extremely small in many instances, was not sufficient to prepare these people for economic sustainability and the harsh realities ahead.
Many of these severed workers who owed the banks saw the monies received going to repay loans and pay off credits; they ended up with nothing. The entire scenario was aptly summed up by Dr Ashni Singh as “callous and unconscionable”.
The exodus, which continued throughout the PNC dictatorship, once again was rekindled, as many of these severed sugar workers fled overseas to work, and return for six-month periods at a time, but some overstayed and remained illegally in the USA, thus disintegrating their family lives. Some died during this period as broken individuals, and family dreams and aspirations were dashed to smithereens. A few committed suicide, and their death is squarely on the Coalition’s shoulders, a burden they must live with.
The PPP/C saw what was happening and made a vow, during the campaign of the 2020 Elections and in its Manifesto, to reopen the closed Estates and give support to these severed workers. This campaign promise began to take shape as soon as the PPP/C Government took office in August 2020. Rehabilitation work in the field and factory is gaining momentum at Rose Hall Estate, with 700 persons being employed already. Works on Skeldon and Enmore have also started, with more severed workers being employed there.
It must be recalled that the Coalition allowed the closed estates to rot and decay, contrary to what the Coalition Finance Minister had promised. He had said that the closed estates would not be ‘mothballed’, but kept in an operable condition to attract investors. He lied.
Had that been done, billions would have been saved today. The Coalition must see this huge expenditure which is now needed as being orchestrated by their vindictive schemes, and should take full responsibility.
The Coalition should also accept the fact that the $250,000 payout to each severed sugar worker is as a direct result of the massive emotional trauma and social and economic degradation suffered by these workers. The workers deserve it, but instead, the Coalition condemn this initiative which was rolled out by Vice President Dr Jagdeo a few weeks ago, and the payment began last Saturday.
The joy on the faces of these persons who received this money is beyond words. Many spoke about the timeliness of this payment to buy some necessities, pay off debts, do repairs to their leaking roofs and broken stairs, stocking groceries and clothes for the festive season, and some even talk about paying medical bills. This scene should have been witnessed by the Coalition, in order for them to appreciate how a caring Government operates, and how a citizen can be assisted to enjoy a good life. This Government is bringing the illusive good life which the Coalition preached about for 5 years and denied the Guyanese people.
Let them focus on this stanza from that poem: “Just walk a mile in his moccasins/Before you abuse, criticise and accuse. If just for one hour you could find a way/To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.”