GTUC demands direct balloting for regional MPs, free education

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By Bibi Khatoon

The Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) is demanding that regional representatives in the National Assembly are elected by direct balloting so as to ensure that residents are given the opportunity to choose persons who will best represent their interests.

Delivering a passionate speech at the annual Labour Day observance held at the National Park Wednesday, GTUC’s General Secretary Lincoln Lewis noted that “this will bring about greater representation and accountability.”

Currently, regional Members of Parliament (MPs) are selected by the respective parties.

Lewis used his time on stage to call on the Government to be more inclusive, telling workers that they must not give up their rights, including their right to be associated with whichever group they choose.

“Labour reminds you today that regardless of which party or Government is in power, we have to earn to live, to provide for our families, we therefore [have] a responsibility to [hold] all our political parties accountable through our votes, our collective agitation and collective will,” he told the hundreds of workers gathered at the National Park.

“What we want is a committed set of leaders,” the veteran trade unionist said as he noted that issues remain regardless of which party is in power.

The GTUC General Secretary also called for an adjustment of the number of votes needed to pass certain bills in the National Assembly so as to ensure there is greater cooperation at the political level.

Lewis called for an amendment to article 106 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana to allow 60% vote in the National Assembly for the passage of a No-Confidence Motion.

“This is important to circumvent the risk of one vote in the National Assembly swaying the will of the people.”

There is also need for a guideline on how the Government should function after the passage of such a motion he said, alluding to the confusion which persists after the passage of the December 21 No-Confidence Motion against the Government.

Prior to Lewis’ speech, President of the General Workers Union Norris Witter deemed the upcoming elections as “the mother of all elections.”

President of the General Workers Union Norris Witter

“Much is at stake,” he said adding that “for us in the labour movement, this election whenever it is held, will be a defining moment for us, it will decide whether we continue to progress as a nation or whether we go backwards.”

Oil production and free education

Also set to begin in the coming months is the production of oil, making this Labour Day the last before the inflow of revenue from the sector begins.

As such, Lewis called for free education from Nursery to University, free dialysis treatment, a revamp of the health care system –all of which he pointed out can be made possible with profits from the oil and gas resources.

“We want an educated nation.”

A section of the gathering at the National Park (DPI photo)

“Tek some of the money ahyo gon get from oil, go in the National Assembly…and mek plan, we want free education,” he said.

He pointed out that it is important for Guyanese to ensure that the profits from the petroleum industry are not squandered.

“We have to guard against situations where our citizens are being forced to settle for crumbs. There must be a new approach to ensure Guyanese benefit tremendously from these resources,” the GTUC General Secretary said.

He pointed out that there is a disparity in the wages earned by foreigners as opposed to what is earned by Guyanese and this must be addressed.

This year’s Labour Day activities were held under the theme “A long journey for social justice, together we can achieve.”

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