ROAR of Ravi Dev
The PNC bent backwards to accommodate the AFC in their coalition “accord” renegotiation. Why else would they give the latter 30% of the seats they would receive at the next elections in light of their abysmal performance at the 2018 LGE? Especially when in polarised societies voters are more willing to “experiment” with their votes than in national elections, when control of the state is at stake. And the simple answer is they want the ABC countries, which have an even larger stake in Guyana today, to repeat their 2015 blessings on a “multiracial government”.
The PNC gave away the store in 2015 because they needed the Indian-Guyanese component of the AFC’s base to give them “multiracial” credentials – and ditto this time around. Even though the actual “giveaway” was more notional than not, given the PNC diluting the real powers of the Ministries conferred to the AFC – especially the Prime Ministership and the Public Security Ministry. It was a pappy show but they were able to get away with the “multiracial” tag and they are hoping for a repeat performance.
But the US was not totally convinced about the multi-racial bona fides of the coalition. In a report for the USAID, “Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Assessment of Guyana” issued in March 2016, the authors concluded: “It was considered still too early to assess whether the executive is actually “walking the walk.” Events occurring during the writing of this report suggest that the executive has been sufficiently reminded of its political vulnerability. For example, the decision to table in the National Assembly the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Guyana Sugar Corporation, along with the postponement of police promotions, may indicate a preferential option for more democratic governance.”
The authors were correct to be cautious on the PNC’s claim to “democratic governance”. A year later Granger used the report of a one-man COI he appointed to investigate a two-year “assassination plot” against himself to completely revamp the top brass of the GPF, after he had strong-armed the Police Service Commission (PSC) to resign and then reappointed a more compliant one. The Opposition Leader was forced to observe that Guyana was being remade into a “Banana Republic”.
But the PNC’s subsequent actions on the Guysuco COI was more revealing. The entire COI Report, laid in Parliament on Dec 30, 2015, was thrown into the garbage, including its central recommendation that the corporation be supported for three additional years, rehabilitated and privatised. Instead, the coalition unilaterally decided to shut down four of the seven sugar estates and fire almost 7000 workers, mostly PPP supporters, employed by Guysuco and private farmers. Neither the sugar union GAWU, nor the Opposition, were informed much less consulted on the heartless move. It was the Guyana Times that revealed the closure of Wales in early 2016.
In May 2017, the Minister of Agriculture finally laid a “State Paper on the future of the sugar Industry” in the National Assembly, which confirmed the closure of Wales and the incipient closure of Enmore/LBI (ECD), Rose Hall (Canje, Berbice) and Skeldon (Corentyne, Berbice). But what brought the issue of non-democratic governance of the PNC more to the fore was the differential treatment meted out to the fired Sugar Workers versus that to its supporters.
The PNC’s State Paper made repeated commitments to alleviate the dire plight of the former group: “GUYSUCO also proposes to surrender land for lease to employees for them to engage in agricultural production. The resources that exist under the “Green economy” and “Regional Food Self-Sufficiency” drive would support their efforts…(crop types to be decided by GUYSUCO and the Ministry of Agriculture).” Yet, to date, not a single acre has been leased to a fired sugar worker who are all on the breadlines. At Wales, without any notice or tender, 700 acres were instead leased to a Ghanaian company specifically formed for the purpose – to cultivate coconuts.
Contrast this treatment to the government’s launching a CDB-funded $2.6Billion scheme in Dec 2016, as Wales was being shuttered, to resuscitate agriculture behind the four African-dominated villages of Ithaca, Buxton, BV and Mocha. Identified crops would be processed, packaged and marketed to Caricom and other global markets.
At the end of slavery, the sugar producers spitefully conspired to deny the ex-slaves the opportunity to become independent. This PNC government intends to do the same with the present Indian-dominated sugar workers. While claiming “multiracial” credentials.