by Mark Murray
With the closure of the Wales Sugar Estate as of last December, the ripple effect of that decision is now being felt by the surrounding community.
The West Bank Demerara estate was closed following Government’s completion of the Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
Today, Friday is usually market day because that is when the workers from the nearby Estate would be paid and the area would be buzzing with shoppers.
Mary Clarke known by her customers as ‘Poke-girl’ is one of the many vendors that is being affected. The number of her customers has decreased marginally.
This mother of four says with Wales Estate being closed she is not sure where to go next. “(sighs)…the youngest is five, Nursery school and the eldest is 14yrs going West Demerara Secondary School it hard,” said Ms. Clarke
Her day would start as early as 4:00 am and it is becoming even more difficult to meet her monthly expenses.
She recounted that recently her home was invaded by bandits while she was selling “and people going by me, steal all me money, all me jewel, ma cellphone from outside (overseas) from ma brother. Everything steal out, the matter at the Police Station but we ain’t catch the person”.
“It hard much less when dem close this Estate. Wah more people nah gonna do? Yah understand it nah easy yah got to scared here now because you can’t even deh outside too late because people just waiting to see yah know wah you got fa steal,” the woman added.
A vegetable vendor, Michael Danraj who is also a parent of two, spoke about declining customers for his perishables. “Business bad, right now everything I buy got to send back because the people dem nah get wuk at the Estate so, thing real hard here. Whole morning me deh here me just sell about $6000 can’t really wuk out. Me come till Parika,” he said.
For Danraj finding a solution to his current situation is something he has not thought about, “like yah ain’t know wah fa do, the thing getting more hard. Every day you ah go buy something everything raise at the shop. Yah use to do good business before but closing de Estate now getting hard…hard.”
Two other vendors also shared similar stories about losing their livelihood slowly as those living in and around the community of Wales grapple with their reality.
“Well we live on the West Bank and this was the best place fa come and that years ago. And now it hamper business ah lot cause business slow down significantly for the past like 8 to 10 months” said a grocery vendor.
He also suggested that government “fix back the Wales Estate let it come back running, when the Estate use to run everything use to be smooth out here.”
Another meat vendor explained that the closure can be considered as “teking bread out of people mouth yah, understand what I saying. You claim that you want people go to school children must go to school, yah tek bread out of the parent mouth, how people gonna get money to send dem children to school? How dem gonn get money to eat?”
The man is even questioning Government’s decision “who make that decision, made a very bad decision and it gonna be very costly to this country. Maybe I should look another job or something cause we wasting time.”
When the Wales Sugar Estate closed its door hundreds of employees were left without a job while others took the opportunity to be relocated, even if it meant traveling miles to their new workplace.
For years the sugar industry has met many challenges from poor management to the removal of preferential prices as both the previous and present governments try to keep the industry alive.