Chand says being made “scapegoat” by “evildoers”

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By Devina Samaroo

President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) Komal Chand says he is being made a “scapegoat” by “evildoers” who are upset with the meeting he had with the Government regarding the severance payment to thousands of retrenched sugar workers.

He was responding to an article, carried by the Guyana Times, which posited that “hundreds” of sugar workers are calling for his resignation. The article contained quotes from four anonymous sugar workers expressing their disappointment with the Union Leader over the outcome of the meeting with the Government.

At that meeting, the Government decided to pay the full severance for those retrenched workers who are earning $500,000 and less while the others will get 50% by the end of the month and the remainder before the end of the year.

While he was cautious not to point fingers, the longstanding Trade Unionist said he does not rule out the leadership of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) as the masterminds behind the attack on his character.

“Clearly this is a work of others than who print the paper. We are trying to get some clear picture of who might be the people who masterminded this dirty work. By attacking Komal Chand, they are attacking the Union,” Chand said during an interview with the News Room on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.

The Union Leader believes he is now being made a scapegoat because the desired outcome was not achieved.

“We did not manage to stop them [from closing the sugar estates]. Some of them [other organisations] did not manage to stop them but we are scapegoated which is unfair but we will not be daunted,” the GAWU president expressed.

Chand pointed out that organisations like the PPP and the Private Sector Commission (PSC) are among others who have pressured the Government against closing the estates, also to no avail.

As such, he dubbed the instigators of the article as “evildoers” who are trying to smear his character.

Chand said there seems to be an upset that GAWU did not do enough to save the industry but he posited that the union exhausted all efforts to ensure those in the sugar belt received the best possible outcome.

“To say that we are not fighting enough, it’s really ridiculous. We are doing everything that is legal and proper,” the GAWU President emphasised, noting that the union organised protests, sent press statements, hosted various media programmes and even challenged the closures in the High Court and the Supreme Court.

He reminded that GAWU did not support the payment arrangement for severance and even during the meeting with the Government, its members demanded that the full severance is made available for all workers.

He explained that the only option available now is to take legal action for full severance to be paid, however, such a move could risk the any payment until the court matter has concluded.

When asked if he believed someone from GAWU is responsible for attacking his character, Chand strongly dismissed such speculations.

However, when asked if he believes the leadership of the PPP is responsible, he initially declined to comment but subsequently indicated that he will not rule them out.

Chand said while he may not formally meet with the leadership to find out, he will talk to several members to get an understanding of their perception of the article. Chand claimed that he already spoke to Central and Executive Member of the PPP, Anil Nandlall who assured him that he  [Nandlall] does not intend on attacking GAWU.

Chand said he hopes to speak with the Leader of the Opposition and PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo as well on the issue.

When asked to comment on the relationship he [Chand] has with the PPP’s leadership, he declined to say.

However, Chand reminded that GAWU is not affiliated with a political party as its members consist of persons of all political backgrounds. It should be noted that Chand is PPP Parliamentarian.

Chand said the views of the Union may sometimes coincide with that of the PPP but he maintained that GAWU is an independent body that will meet with any organisation or Government in the interest of the workers it represents.

Chand, who has served as GAWU President since the late 90s, also maintained that he will not resign.

Referring to the attempts to remove him as “wicked” and mischievous”, Chand said “I would not be worth my salt if I pander to it.”

The leadership of the union is elected every three years. The next elections will be held in 2019.

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