Racism alleged in not aiding Guyana sugar industry
Photo : Former President Donald Ramotar
Former President Donald Ramotar has alleged racism as the motif for the Guyana government not aiding the sugar industry; sugar workers support the opposition PPP. He accused the present APNU-AFC government of racial discrimination in selectively accessing assistance from India – accept aid on various programs (that benefit their supporters) but not that relating to rehabilitating the ailing sugar industry (PPP supporters). This is a serious charge and it needs to be probed.
It is not clear there was a formal (written) agreement for technical assistance and a line of credit from India to rehabilitate the sugar industry in Guyana. But Ramotar claims there was an agreement, a tacit one if not a written one, when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in January 2015. In international or diplomatic relations, nations commit to do things or give aid or support programs without a formal agreement. The formalities have to be worked out and signed. Ramotar was removed from office in May 2015 and as such formalities may not have been worked out to rescue the sugar industry.
Let us assume there was no (formal or informal) agreement, why hasn’t this administration approached India or an African country that has been successful in sugar cane production to assist with the rehabilitation of the sugar industry. India has been very successful in growing sugar at lower cost than most other countries; farms have been very profitable without assistance from Europe. So India can provide a lot of guidance, technology, management and financial assistance to rehabilitate the sugar industry.
As for the Ramotar charge of racism in not accepting India's assistance for the sugar industry, whether a written agreement was in place or not, now that the former President has stated there was an agreement in principle to aid the sugar industry, the APNU+AFC coalition government should pursue the matter. A serious charge of racism was leveled against it. The PNC led government should query from the government of India if indeed assistance was committed to the sugar industry and whether it can now be accessed. And if it was not committed, then the government should formally request such assistance to rehabilitate the estates and overall industry – in cultivation and harvesting. No harm is done in asking to save the jobs of some ten thousand workers and on whom the livelihoods of tens of thousands depend. The economic growth of Guyana is also tied to sugar.