Fmr. Gov’t Minister touts international relief fund for sugar workers


Noting that many businesses have lived off the blood, sweat and tears of sugar workers, former Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud has called for the establishment of an international relief fund to assist the thousands of workers who are being laid off by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).

However, businessman, Ramesh Dookhoo, is not too keen on this proposal. Speaking in his personal capacity as a businessman, he told the News Room today that the Government and the Unions should take up this responsibility.

Dookhoo said, “the impact should have been studied and provisions made, time given because the moving of those people from the payroll not only affects the people and their families but the entire economy of those communities.”

He said the Unions have been collecting dues for a number of years from the sugar workers and thus, they too have a responsibility for the livelihoods of the workers. The businessman dubbed the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) as one of the “richest unions in the country” adding that it is time the unions representing sugar workers change their modus operandi and focus a little more on the plight of the workers who have so far been dismissed.

Ramesh Dookhoo

Meanwhile, when asked whether the private sector is willing to support the call of the former Minister of Agriculture, Dookhoo noted that the establishment of such a fund was discussed before at the level of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) but it “fell through the cracks.”

He said while the business community is already taxed with their legal obligations along with other donations, it will be open to supporting persons who want to contribute.

“At the moment, the private sector donates to every single thing that happens in Guyana. (But) while that may be so, I will not stand in the way of anyone who wants to contribute to a fund to help these communities and it’s really and entirely up to the individual companies to be able to contribute to such fund and to have a desire to do so,” Dookhoo said.

Meanwhile, the Indian Action Committee (IAC), in a statement today urged the government to retrain the now unemployed and transfer a portion of lands on the estates to the workers so that they can start their own economic venture.

Additionally, the IAC urged the government set out in clear language what it plans to do to safeguard the livelihoods of the workers and the communities.

Thousands of workers are being laid off by the GuySuCo before the end of the year from the Rose Hall, Enmore and Skeldon Estates. This will be added to the amount already laid off from the Wales sugar estate earlier in the year.

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