Minister Ramjattan blamed spending on Sugar Industry for Prison Riot in Guyana

Minister Ramjattan blamed spending on Sugar Industry for Prison Riot in Guyana

Photo : Minister Khemraj Ramjattan

Prisoners rioted and burnt down the main prison in Guyana in July 8. Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan is absolutely wrong to say his government spending money on sugar was the reason why enough funds were not available to upgrade and improve prison conditions. How about corruption, wastage, salary increase for ministers, and misspending money -- are they not the real factors diverting scarce resources from the prison and other projects? How about scholarships for ministers, the drug bond, $500K a month rental for housing for ministers? Aren't they the real cause for money not being available for the prisons and sugar workers?

As I travel around querying people for their views on current issues, voters almost unanimously disagree with the explanation offered by Public Security Minister Ramjattan for not upgrading the Camp Street prison because of his claim that "the money was largely spent on the sugar industry".

Voters feel the Minister would have been better off not offering a comment or explanation for the riot rather than make that poor excuse for the deteriorating conditions in the prison that led to the riot and jail break.

Voters say that the government has not implemented the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on the last prison riot a year ago. People are very fearful for their lives as a result of the jail break and blame the government for the current state of affairs regarding prison conditions. Almost everyone is concerned about the crime situation saying the government seems unable or incapable of addressing it.

Current and former sugar workers say the sugar industry has nothing do to with the prison riot. A bulk of the sugar industry money has come from grants from the European Union rather than from national revenues. But the sugar workers have not seen the money. The sugar industry and its workers have been taken for a political ride. The current and former sugar workers complain that this and the preceding government neglected and marginalized the sugar community that resulted in its present condition.

It is noted that some US$130 million from the European Union meant for sugar workers was diverted into the national budget to undermine the sugar industry. Had the PPP and the coalition governments efficiently utilized the resources at its disposal meant for the sugar industry, it would have been operating at a profit. Since private cane farmers have been cultivating sugar at a profit, there is no reason why the state can't grow sugar profitable.

Voters urge the Security Minister and the government to look at the real causes for the prison riot and break out rather than casting blame on hard working innocent sugar workers.