October 2, 2014

Farmers’ Month

October in Guyana is “Agriculture Month” and it is a shame that more citizens are unaware of this. This country was founded by the Dutch in the 17th century because of its agricultural potential and this is what has sustained us into the 21st century.

While some may point to its decline from being 30 per cent of our economy, just two decades ago, to the present 20 per cent, it is important to note that this is a relative decline. In absolute terms, agriculture is as big as it ever was, notwithstanding the recent fall in the fortunes of sugar.

But while it is important that Guyana continues to forge ahead in the manufacturing and service sectors as other countries have done, it would be foolish to ignore agriculture simply because it is “old”. The importance of agriculture has in fact increased rapidly in the last few decades as some of the most populous countries in the world, such as China and India, moved their populations from their countrysides into cities, where they have to be supplied with food.

Agriculture, therefore is now defined as a “strategic” resource which must be protected and projected. One of the fallacies in thinking about agriculture is that it is only concerned with the land: but the human resource is even more important than the land. The Israelis have made a desert bloom because of their farmers and farming techniques. In Guyana, “Agriculture Month”’ could just as well have been called “Farmers Month”.

In Guyana, the per capita GNP calculated as “Purchasing Power Parity”, or the amount of goods the dollar-denominated per capita GNP can actually purchase, is twice what it is denominated in, because of the cheap basket of goods our farmers produce. Because of the global demand for food, Guyana is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities since it has both the land and the farmers to raise its agricultural production to a much higher plateau.

There are so many opportunities. Earlier this week, there was a news item that Jamaica will be allowed to increase the amount of mangoes it can ship to the US, because it was able to address concerns about its fruit flies accompanying the fruit.

Guyana has never really explored the markets for its fruits – including mangoes and sapodillas. The demand for these two latter fruits have skyrocketed in the US because of the increase of that country’s “foreign born” population from tropical lands – including Guyana.

We have done well to increase the production of rice to a point where we can become a significant player in the world market if we make that push to reach the million tonne mark in exports.

The Government has done a commendable job in addressing drainage and irrigation needs, but marketing remains the Achilles Heel of the industry. The new markets in Panama and Africa demonstrate that our sales can keep pace with production once there is a concerted, planned push in this area.

Even though there has been much talk over the last decade of “mega farms” being the wave of the future, sadly there has not been the matching “walk” from even our Caricom partners to whom we have offered our land at below bargain basement prices. This was one of our contributions to the Caribbean becoming self sufficient in its food needs, via the Jagdeo Initiative in Agriculture. A much touted and heralded recent initiative from Trinidad appears to have withered on the vine.

While we hope the Government has not given up on mega farms, interestingly enough, the theme this year for Agriculture Month is, “Enhancing agriculture through family farming and the use of sustainable technologies”.

It would appear that the Government is not placing all its (agricultural) eggs in one basket. Studies have shown that the 15-acre family farm, with appropriate technology, is the most efficient of them all.

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The GuyExpo hub

Over the years, the Guyana Government has invested billions of dollars in the execution of successful GuyExpo shows with the aim of fuelling the growth of small and medium-scale businesses.

The Administration has undoubtedly used the GuyExpo ‘hub’ as a unique platform to build and engineer the concept of Private-Public Partnerships.

It has also demonstrated seriousness about ensuring local businesses, apart from exhibiting their products and services, have an opportunity to create linkages with other regional and international businesses during and after the staging of the mega event.

Additionally, successive PPP/C Administrations have paid rapt attention to using GuyExpo as the ideal hub to encourage businesses to become innovative, technologically advanced, and competitive.

As a result of these approaches, GuyExpo has had a positive and significant impact on the development of those small businesses that choose to invest and be part of the event. They have benefited, according to exit polls done over the past five years, from increased pre-and post GuyExpo profits and boosted public image/portfolio as a result of the work of the organising committee and their branding of the event.

Added to this, these small-scale businesses are able to market themselves through unique promotions and sales pitches made to the thousands that pass through the exhibition daily. In a nutshell, Government has consistently been providing the policies, atmosphere, and right developmental mix to ensure that GuyExpo thrives and grows young businesses with the hope that the Private Sector would demonstrate more seriousness and overall ownership of all aspects of the lucrative trade and exposition show some time in the future.

It is, however, most unfortunate that the Private Sector has not managed to match Government’s investment in the exposition over its existence. It is also worrying that the Private Sector has not seen the need to occasion a paradigm shift that demonstrates genuine understanding of the potential of the exposition and its link to the country’s macro-economic fundamentals.

While they are willing to exploit the benefits of the exposition year after year, they are not willing to invest in the construction of another site dedicated purely to the staging of expositions like GuyExpo. They also appear to be running away from the risk of using the exposition in a meaningful way to launch private large-scale developmental projects that could significantly impact the future of the manufacturing sector in Guyana.

It is clear that a certain section of the Private Sector is bent on criticising the presence of foreign delegations and businesses at the exposition.

Yet that section is unwilling to match the seriousness and dedication shown by those participants to do business, seek out new markets, and maximise all avenues to expand their various brands and products whether within their countries or further afield.

Guyanese must commend those businesses that have demonstrated confidence in the exposition and are working closely with the Tourism, Industry and Commerce Ministry with the aim of constantly improving the exposition, while strengthening its ability to remain the hub for the promotion of manufacturing businesses in Guyana.

Those new and emerging partnerships, cottage industries and other forms of businesses that also display confidence in the exposition through their participation in GuyExpo over the years must also be commended.

In 2014, the exposition is at another crossroads which it will no doubt successively navigate, but if it is to be sustained over the coming years, the Private Sector must become more intricately involved.

They must demonstrate the willingness to respond in a more serious way to Government’s call to improve the fortunes of the economy through domestic, regional, and foreign direct investment.

Careful consideration must be placed also on taking the event to other jurisdictions in the world, such as North America, China, Latin America, Central America and South America with the aim of boosting the confidence of local businesses and their ability to compete on the international scene.

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Sensationalism and cynicism

The media in Guyana, especially the press, are going through a crisis, but they, least of all, do not seem to appreciate it. We are not speaking of the crisis that can be seen lying ahead if one look at the newspapers in the US and the UK withering on the vine for lack of readership and ad revenues.

That is perchance ten years down the road, and for us in Guyana, that is a lifetime: something for someone else to worry about.

We are referring to the deeper damage being wrought in the minds of our populace by the press about that fragile plant called “democracy”, which we have been trying to nurture here for more than a century. But that is not exactly correct, is it?

We know that even though our newspapers weighed in heavily during that great struggle in the 1960s that was billed as “totalitarianism versus democracy”, the side that they picked did not exactly exhaust itself spreading that form of ordering society and government.

In fact, the press itself was explicitly pruned to purvey a brand of journalism designed for a “New International Information Order”. In this brave new world, the function of the press was to tell and retell the deeds of the government of the day. The private media did chafe at the bit and a “crisis” was declared.

In Guyana the crisis was epitomised by the PNC government of the day, effectively banning newsprint through their denial of foreign currency to procure same. The private press was choked to death.

It was with great fanfare that the dawning of a new era was declared when the system of governmental control was abandoned and the private press was brought back to life. Interestingly, the same country that had conspired to ensconce the totalitarian government into office, which killed the free press, helped to return both “democracy” and the “free press”.

It is often forgotten that the Stabroek News received US$100,000 grant from the US’s National Endowment for Democracy to launch its operations in 1986.

But it was with the return of free and fair elections in 1992, that another subversion of the press occurred. Television stations sprung up like mushrooms and several newspapers were launched. This arrival of democracy and the opening up of press freedom, not coincidentally arrived coevally, birthed in a climate of smaller government and lesser controls.

And just as in this new dispensation businesses in general ran amuck in its pursuit of profits at the expense of the societal greater good, sections of the press adopted the sensationalistic, yellow journalistic that had been so derided in its first destructive incarnation in the US as the “spit press”.

But in Guyana, there was an even more insidious turn to the depravity of the press in its rejection of its more traditional role of creating a more informed citizenry to better perform their democratic duties.

The Kaieteur News in particular, initiated a process in which the most scandalous derogation of persons in or associated with the government became their norm. The law of libel was no bar to their depraved depictions as they pandered to the basest instincts of the populace.

And it is here that the greatest damage to the creation of a democratic polity in our country occurred. Because the Kaieteur News was able to deploy the Goebbelsian technique of repeating the “Big Lie”, not about ideology or abstract concepts, but negative portrayals of individuals in authority, gradually we have arrived at a situation where a deep cynicism about government in general and democracy possibilities in particular.

However, it is hoped that the present imbroglio in which the owner and publisher of the Kaieteur News has found himself defending a charge of conspiring to defraud the state, will demonstrate to citizens that the posture of the paper might have been just projecting its owner’s own venality.


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APNU’s agony

It appears that “A Partnership for National Unity” (APNU) is undergoing a crisis of identity and, as with all such existential issues, it can be very agonising on the individuals constituting the organisation. If Maggie Thatcher is to be believed, there is no such thing as a “society” – there are only the individuals that constitute the concept. And so it is with a political “coalition” such as APNU.

There is first of all, the coalition itself. The Guyana Action Party (GAP) had been one of the founding members, but with the passing of Everall Franklin, it would appear that party has also passed on. Its Leader Paul Hardy has not been heard from and one doubts that through its representative Sydney Allicock, it commands any significant support in its former hinterland base.

Keith Scott and his National Front Alliance were always more of a paper organisation and very few would assert with a straight face that it has any electoral identity much less support.

The once proud Working People’s Alliance (WPA) is but a shell of its vibrant and principled past where it performed a vanguard role in the struggle against the PNC dictatorship in the 1970s.

Much of this struggle and the machinations of the PNC have been revealed in the ongoing Inquiry into the killing of the man who was at the heart of the WPA’s support, Dr Walter Rodney. Without much ground support, the WPA yet gave some credence to the present PNC’s claim – under its new leader David Granger – to have “turned over a new leaf”.

However, after WPA’s Rupert Roopnaraine, rewarded as “second in command” of APNU in Parliament under Granger, unilaterally offered a rationale as to why the PNC and its armed forces might have been justified in assassinating Rodney, most of the remaining members of the WPA disavowed Roopnaraine’s assertion and began distancing themselves from APNU in general and Granger in particular.

David Hinds and Tacuma Ogunseye have openly expressed their disagreement with the strategy of APNU. Roopnaraine recently revealed that he would not be returning as APNU’s Prime Ministerial candidate.

It is, therefore, quite clear to the electorate at this time that APNU was simply a fig leaf to hide the sins of the PNC which still reverberate in the collective consciousness of the Guyanese populace. But the rigging of the election to choose the leader of the PNC at its last Congress in July has now placed severe strain on the credibility to its own “traditional constituency”.

The sidelining of long-time activist Aubrey Norton and the Linden delegation was not seen as just a personalised competition between two leaders, but the latest battle to define the identity of the PNC.

Ever since its formation in 1959 with Burnham’s PPP, the League of Coloured Peoples’ United Democratic Party and Sydney King (later Eusi Kwayana), the PNC had been dominated by the middle-class UDP types, who lorded it over the masses of ordinary working class members.

Norton and the Lindeners’ challenge was only the last in a long struggle for justice and democracy within the PNC. It had been thought that Robert Corbin’s accession to the PNC’s leadership in 2003 might have altered the power imbalance, but Corbin ignominiously betrayed his class interests.

The elitist Granger’s gambit to demonstrate he has support among the PNC’s base failed miserably last week when he called out members across the country to protest against the Government for not bowing to his threats on Local Government Elections. While the ethnic card will be played by Granger to ensure there is not much movement of the PNC’s support to the AFC or PPP/C, it is quite possible many of them will simply stay at home.

During the Scottish Referendum, Tory PM David Cameron pleaded with voters not to give the “effing Tories”, a kick. Granger may have to so plead for the “effing PNC”.

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Tourism and hinterland communities

Because we have not been part of the traditional Caribbean tourism package that was once the world’s most well known, there is some unawareness that tourism is one of the largest industries in the world. Tourism contributes over nine per cent of global Gross Domestic Product and over US$1.6 trillion in direct revenues. The “industrial” giants; China and USA, are interestingly, respectively number one and two in tourism receipts – raking over $127 billion and $126 billion respectively.

Over the last decade however, and especially with the accession to office by Irfan Ali as the Tourism Minister, the Government of Guyana has made a sustained effort to boost our tourism product – and gradually the efforts are bearing fruit. What has been noticeable about our focus on tourism is that unlike many other developing countries, our policy makers have not fallen for the “quick and dirty” route to developing the trade: such as Bangkok, which is now seen as one of the largest “fleshpots” of the world.

Yesterday was “World Tourism Day”, with the theme “Tourism and Community Development”. It highlighted tourism’s empowerment of citizens in providing them with skills to achieve change in their local communities. Not coincidentally, it summarises Guyana’s perspective on tourism.

The thrust is most commendable and in the end is the most sustainable form of the product. As Bangkok illustrates, there is the danger that in seeking the tourist dollar, operators will cater to the bases urges of the moneyed stratum of the world and in the process destroy their own societal integrity.

In Guyana, it is evident that the Government recognises that our greatest tourism assets are the country’s diverse communities, and it’s almost pristine rain forests and hinterland – including the communities in those areas.

Only last year, for instance, the Government launched a five-year “Hinterland Tourism Development Plan”, which was initiated in 2013. It seeks to create a sustainable economy in what all concede are the most economically challenged communities in Guyana. But unlike what has prevailed in other “Eco-tourism” destinations – the plan ensures that the Indigenous heritages are preserved and not corrupted just to suit the “tastes” of the foreign tourist.

One way that this is being achieved is through the development of tourism facilities such as Surama Eco-Lodge and Rewa Eco-Lodge that are owned and operated by the local community. This presents the opportunity for locals to be trained in tourism hospitality and management skills – and ensures that they are just objects for tourist voyeurs, but in control of the process in which they present their communities to tourists.

All cultures evolve, but what is being ensured is that Indigenous cultures remain the inalienable possession of the peoples that practice them and not outsiders that are just interested in making a “fast buck”.

Guyana’s tourism development in the in the highest tradition of the UN’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism which declares that “Tourism is called upon to both be an example and to provide the road map for sustainable development in the larger communities in which they do business; Tourism is called upon to enhance cultural heritages of a community and Tourism is called upon to provide a number of financial benefits and raise the standard of living for the community.”

It is very visionary that the self-sustainability of the hinterland villages are being ensured at this time. One action by the Government that has ensured this – in addition to its involvement in the development of tourism facilities – has been the long delayed demarcation of Amerindian Villages as adumbrated in the Amerindian Act which this Government passed in 2005. The villages are now under the control of the villagers themselves – as attested by the ongoing protests by miners that Amerindians are allocating mining rights.

While World Tourism Day is transitory, the empowerment of our hinterland communities in the drive to develop tourism here is permanent.

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Violence against children

The saga of the young man who claims he was sexually abused by Raphael Trotman, former co-leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), illustrates perfectly the recent UNICEF report, “Hidden in Plain Sight”, which collated reports from 190 countries on the abuse of children.

As the release from UNICEF noted, the effects of this violence are “lasting, often inter-generational (and) exposed children are more likely to become unemployed, live in poverty, and be violent towards others”. And it is in “plain sight” if we would only open our eyes.

The report focused on sexual violence, homicide, bullying, and violent discipline. Pointing out that the data is only what was reported, the authors cautioned that their findings are almost certainly understated.

The summary on sexual violence –  “About 120 million girls under the age of 20 worldwide (about 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts, and one in three ever-married adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 (84 million) have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners”, is, therefore, mind boggling.

While the incidence of violence against children is higher in the undeveloped world, most of the reports are centred on girls. But this is a lacuna of information that must be filled, because even in the developed countries sexual violence against boys is quite extensive.

For instance, according to the report, “In Switzerland, a 2009 national survey of girls and boys aged 15 to 17 found that 22 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, had experienced at least one incident of sexual violence involving physical contact.” And this is where the recent report by the young man as to how he was introduced into the pattern of sexual violence is a useful starting point for us to begin to address this scourge here.

From what other reports on individualised acts of sexual violence on boys show, most often it is a relative or close family friend who commits the act.

In Guyana, individuals are much more protective of their female children, but permit opportunities for molestation against boys: parents are just not socialised into accepting sexual violence against boys. Adult males are allowed much freedom with male children. For instance when relatives visit and “sleep over”, very frequently, older males are allowed to sleep with boys of the host family.

Because of the closeness between the victim and the paedophile, the former is often “groomed” by the latter to win their trust. The young boys would be plied with gifts, taken on trips, introduced to influential persons to impress on the intended victim that the perpetrator of the violation is an “important” person.

This serves another purpose – after the act is perpetrated, the young victim is more easily persuaded that if they speak out, no one would believe them. In addition, the threats by the paedophile that they would hurt the victim become more credible, since their access to power was made so transparent.

On account of the fact that they are violated by relatives or close family friends who are presented as authority figures, the sexual violence is doubly damaging. It is a violation of trust and of body. These violated individuals almost inevitably have problems in dealing with societal authority figures and symbols.

The violated boys grow up to become “troubled and disturbed” youths and men who we see with increasing frequency. Because the act is often interpreted by the child as having “taken away their manhood”, suicidal behaviour often results.

We can do worse than heed the advice of UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake: “Violence against children occurs every day, everywhere.  And while it harms individual children the most, it also tears at the fabric of society – undermining stability and progress. But violence against children is not inevitable. It is preventable – if we refuse to let violence remain in the shadows.”

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Compromising behaviour

The customary outrage that comes after any incident of Police excesses has not been seen since the shooting to death of Adrian Bishop – a known character to the Police, who, interestingly, was carrying on a very public relationship with a female member of the Force.

The silence by citizens and the scores of human rights organisations here today is perhaps an indication of how sick our society has become of these types of atrocities and double standards from our lawmen. Still to resolve the countless cases involving out-of-control Policemen, the Guyana Police Force could have done well without what transpired in Albouystown Saturday night.

Also coming at a time when the Seelall Persaud-initiated Impact Programme in Alboustown has begun to take root, this shooting is an unnecessary distraction. The fact that it has already happened meant that the Force would have to count the cost of its impact in undermining whatever Police-community relations that had started to develop through the Impact Programme.

From all reports, Bishop and the Policewoman in question had a longstanding relationship, which meant that she was actively involved with the young man throughout his recent run-ins with law enforcement. This type of Police behaviour is symptomatic of a Force that is badly in need of reform and though the authorities often boast of all the measures that are being taken to improve policing and the conduct of ranks, Eve Leary remains in shambles. The general lack of respect for citizens, particularly those of a certain social class, and the often high-handed display of force are too frequent the complaints of a wary citizenry. Bishop’s experience also shows how officers can often abuse their power. That the Policewoman would summon her colleagues to arrest her partner, because he was reportedly seen in company she did not approve of speaks volumes of the level to which the Force has sunk.

But “compromised Police Officers” are not a new phenomenon here: for years we have had cases where officers at the very top of the Guyana Police Force were seen in public cavorting with persons of questionable background. This then brings into question the kind of training our men in uniform receive on entering the law enforcement agencies. Our lawmen must be educated that they live and work in a constantly changing and dynamic social context in which they are exposed to a myriad of ethical conflicts. When either unprepared or unaware, officers are more likely to “go with the flow” than they would be if they were adequately prepared to face potentially ethical risks.

It is said that everyday officers practice mental preparation as it relates to tactical situations. Those who are mentally prepared to face a lethal encounter are more likely to be successful than others who are tactically proficient but mentally unprepared. Thus, just like lethal encounters, ethical dilemmas occur at the most inopportune times, frequently without warning and with little time to stop and think about situations. When inadequately prepared, even the most honest, above-reproach officers can make inappropriate split-second ethical decisions – decisions that can result in life-changing consequences. It is against this background that the alleged compromising behaviour of the Policewoman has to be seen as something that can potentially affect all law enforcement officers.

A similar type of behaviour was displayed earlier in the year when ranks shot a youth in his mouth. In that particular incident, the shooter was a relative of someone who had been allegedly robbed and in a show of force he dragged a 15-year-old from his mother’s house, put a gun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. Ethics training and a commitment to the highest level of professional and personal integrity apply to all members of the Force and have to be consistently demonstrated throughout. Therefore, if the Police Force is to enjoy, maintain and regain the status of a respected profession in our society, it has to change the way it approaches integrity and ethical issues.

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Slow fire

The combined political Opposition parties appear to be executing a carefully orchestrated plan to create political, social, and economic instability in the country with the aim of giving more steam to the No-Confidence Motion which will be tabled in Parliament this October.

These parties have realised that in order to muster up more electoral support and get ahead of the PPP/C before the impending parliamentary debate, they must create an environment where there is distrust for the Government, widespread uncertainty, fear and a general feeling of hopelessness among the citizenry.

As of recent, the plan to remove the PPP/C from office has taken on new parliamentary and extra-parliamentary fronts. The Government is been blamed for everything under the sun and for everything that is wrong in every part of Guyana.

So it does not come as a surprise, that the Opposition has begun mobilising political support in the form of protests and staged public consultations in the name of “local democracy’ and “holding Government accountable”.

On one hand, the APNU has hauled Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh before the Privileges Committee for allegedly spending monies that were legally not approved by the Parliament. This also follows a myriad of other campaigns aimed at discrediting sitting Government Minissters and calling for their resignations.

On the other hand, both the AFC and APNU have failed to commit towards working with the Government through Parliament to iron out concerns they have about several large scale developmental projects, including the Amalia Falls Hydro Power Project, the Cheddi Jagan Expansion Project, and the Marriot Hotel Project.

The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill remains in limbo with the Opposition stymieing its passage and blocking any attempts by the Government to achieve international compliance in order to avoid blacklisting.

Interestingly, all of this is being done while the US Government is implementing critical components of its IRI-led and USAID funded Leadership and Democracy Project which aims to “strengthen local democracy”.

It is also interesting to note that the GPSU, which has always aligned itself with the Opposition interests, have awoken from a long slumber and is now claiming that the Government is not honouring its responsibility to public servants. The Union then threatened strike action and other forms of industrial action if the Government does not act in their favour.

In a twist of events, the AFC has accused that the PPP/C was offering some $30 million to three Opposition Members of Parliament with the aim of buying their vote in the No-Confidence Motion debate. No doubt, the aim was to sling mud against the party but the AFC ended up drawing blood from the APNU and is now between a rock and hard place.

The PPP/C is now being blamed again for the personal conundrum that one of its Executive Members have found himself in.

All of these developments do not augur well for Guyana’s future development, even though they pose the strongest challenge to the country’s democratic resolve.

It would appear that the Opposition political parties are rushing for Executive Power and will do all that they can to make the Government unpopular even if it means jepordising the peace and tranquility enjoyed by ordinary citizens.

There appears to be no serious thought being given to frank and open discussions with the State and Government void of politics in the interest of putting Guyana and its people first.

There is no interest of taking arguments and discussions past politics with the aim of focusing on fast tracking socio-economic development.

The slow fire has just begun, and the Opposition parties will no doubt increase it as the time for the No-Confidence Motion nears, but those right-thinking Guyanese may give another surprise mandate to the politicians after they exercise their democratic rights at the poll.

Much of what happens over the next few weeks will determine how shocking that mandate will be.

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Still Massa Day??

As if the Skeldon Sugar Factory did not have enough troubles, it is reported that there was a workers’ strike over the weekend. It appears that the Estate Manager, accused of being intoxicated, had an altercation with a worker after the latter did not get out of his way fast enough.

The contra account is that the worker was “liming” with friends on the job and did not take it too kindly when remonstrated by the ever vigilant Manager. What is agreed is that mutual blows were struck during the encounter and the next morning, the worker was given a dismissal notice and escorted by security from the estate premises.

While like all industrial incidents, the facts will be contested, it is evident that this latest incident is symptomatic of the poor state of worker-management relations at the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), which has contributed most significantly to the fallen state in which the industry presently finds itself.

Worker-management relations in the sugar industry cannot be disjunctured from its historical context. This had pitted workers against a management stratum that was singleminded in extracting profits from the sweat of workers, without any consideration for their welfare.

In Guyana, the historical record is replete with strikes by workers to secure their rights – especially against managers who insisted on defining themselves as “Massa”. This, of course, was the Creole pronunciation of the word “Master”, which is the legal relationship insisted on by the planters in their relationship with slaves, who were chattel with no rights.

These social relations was supposed to have been ended at Independence, when in the words of the great historian Eric Williams (and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago), “Massa day done”.

In Guyana, the master-slave relationship continued into indentureship and afterwards – if not legal then existentially. The trade union – Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) can be proud that it fought a historic battle to insist on rights for workers when in 1976, the then PNC Government nationalised the sugar industry.

The PPP, in Opposition, supported the nationalisation, on the premise that with local owners – defined and announced in front of every estate as the “people of Guyana” – there would be a change in the social relations that were still stubbornly stuck in the master-slave mode.

What is very clear in the instant case is that the incident between the Manager and worker is most likely the occasion for the war, but not the cause of the war. Even though it is 38 years after nationalisation, and GuySuCo has witnessed two departures of the “white” managers during that time, it is suspected that there has not been enough reorientation of the local managers in terms of their relationship with workers. And just as importantly, a lack of appreciation from managers about the reciprocity of rights between themselves and workers.

Take the instant case. If, as management alleges, the workers were “liming” and refused to follow the exhortation of the Manager to perform their appointed tasks, surely the Manager should not have confronted the worker in the manner he did to precipitate blows being shared. It strains credulity to accept that if a worker is told to resume work, he would resort to throwing punches.

Secondly, the employee was summarily dismissed. Once there is a dispute in accounts between two parties in an industrial incident, there has to be an investigation. There cannot be an automatic assumption that “management is always right”. Sugar workers have fought too long and shed too much of their blood for the procedures that have been established to guide management-worker relations to be so cavalierly discarded.

We hope that as all stakeholders work to ensure the sugar industry becomes a viable one, there will be renewed attention in changing whatever structural drag there is in management-worker relations. We are encouraged because the new Executive Chairman comes from a Human Resources background.

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Poetic justice?

Today, we are sure the newspapers will be replete with reports of the alleged sexual abuse of a young man by Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman. In a statement (made in the name of the “Speaker”), Mr Trotman announced: “A malicious and unfounded allegation of sexual molestation has been made against me by an unstable young man who, sadly, appears to have a troubled mind. I categorically deny his wicked assertions.”

It would appear that the “young man” in question made the allegations against not only Speaker Trotman, whom he described as a “close friend” of his father, but also against another friend of the father and the father himself. The individual claimed he was raped when he was a child. We are sure that in the coming weeks, these allegations will be investigated and pursued and even more so because of the political element.

The Speaker himself alluded to a political nexus with the allegation by claiming, “Unfortunately, he seems to have been conveniently encouraged by manipulative and diabolic political forces.” Mr Trotman’s party, the AFC, also issued a statement in which it described the revelation of the young man “as another desperate and reprehensible attempt to disrupt the tabling of the No Confidence Motion when Parliament resumes in October.”

In Guyana, as in every other country that conducts elections to choose leaders, it has become commonplace for hard-ball political tactics to be deployed against opponents. But of recent, in Guyana, this has descended into all-out “smear campaigns”.

Research has confirmed that “negative campaigning” works, since most people are predisposed to accept information casting others in a bad light – especially others seen as different from themselves. In most cases, the allegations are aimed against the opponent’s most valuable asset – his/her reputation.

While neither the AFC nor Mr Trotman has come out openly and named any party as “manipulating” the young man, there are enough innuendos in their releases for the public to draw their conclusion. The early and extremely categorical rejection of the allegation is also redolent of the public relations advice that negative information must be countered immediately and that a negative motive must be imputed.

But even if this is not an instance of a “smear campaign” against the AFC, many would say that it is only a case of poetic justice being done. This is because that party has connived with the sensationalistic Kaieteur News to conduct the longest running smear campaign in the world against the PPP/C Government, starting with the administration of Bharrat Jagdeo in 2008.

There is not a single edition of that newspaper in which there is not something scandalous being alleged against either former President Jagdeo or others associated with him.

The approach soon became transparent: a most outlandish allegation would be made against the individual which would invariably be attributed to “unnamed sources”. The following day, a representative of the AFC (generally its leader Khemraj Ramjattan) or the APNU (generally Joseph Harmon) would be quoted as commenting on the allegation. It did not matter that the maligned individuals would issue rebuttals: research shows that the damage would already be done since the new information would be seen as self-serving denials.

Yesterday’s Kaieteur News was the latest case in point. In a blaring front-page headline, the newspaper screamed: “Jagdeo/Sattaur plot to destroy Kaieteur News unearthed”. Referring to the ongoing investigation by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) into the “remigrant vehicle scam” that implicated the publisher of the Kaieteur News, Glenn Lall, the article claimed it had “incontrovertible evidence” to support its claim. Yet it did not, because it could not produce a shred of that purported “evidence”. The paper claimed it was “confidential”.

It is almost certain that the usual political suspects in the Opposition will be quoted this morning. But maybe not, since some chickens have come home to roost.

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