Promise to reopen sugar estates draws massive crowd at PPP/C Albion rally

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The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) on Sunday took its rally to Albion, Corentyne Berbice where it had a massive turnout. The rally was described as the biggest ever held in that county where thousands were affected when the current government closed the Skeldon and Rose Hall sugar estates.

The residents all flocked the venue to hear of the PPP/C’s plans to reopen the estates if re-elected to office come March 02, 2020.

The party has promised to reopen the estates and residents are hoping they will keep this promise.

“I think they (sugar estates) can be reopened and those people can get jobs….at present now in Guyana, there is no good for the people. We need change and these change will bring good for each and every Guyanese,” one resident told the News Room.

The PPP/C gets the most votes from Region Six when compared to others, and the thousands who gathered at Albion on Sunday showed that this region which once got weary of the party and voted – more 10, 000 of them in 2011 for the Alliance for Change – are eager to return.

“We want a better future for all of Guyana and the PPP/C is the best party for the country,” one woman said.

The party’s Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali, like other leaders at Sunday’s rally, played on the issue bothering those gathered. “This Government placed you and many Guyanese on the breadline, they placed your families into hardships and they created disaster for many families, especially here in Region Six,” he noted.

The rally was held a short distance away from, the home of the party’s founder and leader Dr Cheddi Jagan who grew up in Port Mourant.

On the platform, Cheddi Jagan’s “man of the people” image was contrasted with that of the current, President David Granger by PPP executive Dr Vindhya Persaud, who referred to the President’s recent decision to use a helicopter to attend one of his party’s rally at Hopetown, West Coast Berbice.

“When women are not able to find jobs, provide for their homes when men are on the breadline and thinking of how they can take care of their families, when in addition to all of that they’re living in fear, the President flies down in a helicopter, is that right? I think he has lost touch with reality,” she said in her speech.

The PPP is eager to use the shutting of two sugar estates to trump up its case for re-election.

The Skeldon Sugar estate – the most expensive infrastructure project to be undertaken in the country, under then President Bharrat Jagdeo, is now closed. It was hailed as the boon for the success of the sugar industry, but it never fulfilled its potential, and though the PPP tried to keep it going and maintain jobs, the current government decided it was too costly to keep going.

The estate at Rose Hall too was shut down, sending thousands home. It has not been easy for Berbicians.

“Now we out of jobs, we like fish out of water now because they (Government) close down the estates; we studying them people them who lose them job, 7000 of them…I hope everything [the party] says, come through, whatever they promised,” one supporter said.

Another added that “at this end of the country, you don’t have anything to do other than the sugar estates; people don’t have work. I used to work at the factory as private contractor, since it close, we don’t have any work, thousands of acres of land left…we can’t get work and thousands of people they don’t have nothing to do than the estate work.”

Yet another resident told the News Room that “…people are suffering and continue to suffer. I myself can’t afford to send my child to UG…they have to open the sugar estate.”

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has admitted that the plan is not financially viable but he argued that it is economically feasible, arguing that the benefits to the people and communities will far outweigh this.

On Sunday, he told the crowd “think about those mothers, the kids who had to come out to school, who can’t eat…”

If there is any fear in the PPP of the support from Berbice, it is of the migration of many of those who lost jobs in the sugar industry. Their vote is crucial for the PPP come March 2.

“Call every one of your relatives back. Call them abroad and say come back home and vote, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it is freedom at stake here,” Jagdeo urged.

The PPP is not just courting those votes. With its list of candidates, it is hoping to get cross-over votes, and in its Prime Ministerial Candidate, former army chief Brigadier Mark Phillips, it would be hoping it can.

“They used to call me ‘Super’ in the GDF, that’s my war name so I am taking back my war name, I am the ‘Super’ for the PPP/C,” he said onstage on Sunday.

(Written by Bibi Khatoon and Neil Marks)

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