Spirit of Enmore Martyrs still alive as struggle continues- GAWU

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See full statement from GAWU:

This morning (June 16, 2020), the GAWU joined several other fraternal organizations in a simple wreath-laying activity at the gravesite of the Enmore Martyrs as we recognized the heroic sacrifice of Harry, Lallabajee, Pooran, Surujballi and Rambarran 72 years ago. The gunning down of the five (5) young men and the maiming of several others represents one of the many sterling chapters of sugar workers struggle. It is also a reminder of the harsh conditions the workers faced at the workplace; the atrocious living conditions they and their families were forced to endure, and the inequity perpetuated by the plantocracy.

The Enmore incident occurred against a backdrop of workers’ militancy which was erupting in several enterprises in that period. A strike lasting sixty-four (64) days by bauxite workers at Mackenzie and Ituni in April, 1947 took place and which highlighted the racial discrimination and segregation perpetuated by the owners and management of the Demerara Bauxite Company. In late February 1948, the Transport Workers Union reacted to the arbitrary transfer of its leaders from Georgetown to different parts of Guyana with an effective strike. Not only were the transfers stayed but Colonel Teare who dictatorially ordered the transfers was hurriedly recalled by the Colonial Office to London.

Wreath laying ceremony on June 16

The decade between the mid-40’s and mid-50’s was an eventful time in our past. Apart from the direct workers struggles there were also significant political developments.An influencing factor at the time was the formation of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) by Dr Cheddi Jagan and others in 1946. The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was founded out of this Committee on January 01, 1950. It was a new political party that differed immensely from the traditional political parties. Immediately, it began to champion the cause of universal adult suffrage and boldly challenged the arbitrary rule of the colonial masters and their local handmaidens. Dr Jagan winning a seat in the Legislative Council in 1947 gave him an opportunity to advocate for many pro-people and particularly pro-workers measures and thus he was able to lift people’s political awareness and class consciousness.

It turned out that the death of the Enmore Five was an awakening call in many quarters and especially to workers in other sectors. Cde Cheddi saw to that. Cde Janet Jagan, former President of Guyana opined that the death of the five martyrs sent a “thunderbolt” through the society, invigorating the liberation struggle which followed.

The brutal repression of 1948, did not daunt the workers nor dampen their spirit. Indeed, militancy in the industry grew and political awareness and activities expanded. Sugar workers’ right to be represented by a Union of their choice was won in 1976. Sugar workers, under the aegis of GAWU, have taken part, along with other working people in the struggles for political independence, they championed the nationalization of the sugar industry; they stood up and fought for the restoration of democratic elections. These struggles took place side by side with other struggles to improve wages and working conditions throughout the industry and for other workers.

As we recall the heroism of the Martyrs, we cannot ignore our present-day situation. Indeed, we see the nation at a critical crossroads as we recognize in our midst those who are actively seeking to drag our nation back to a bygone era of dictatorship. While we see their fervent efforts, we see too the thousands of Guyanese who have stood up and are standing up to protect and uphold our democratic culture. Indeed, it tells us that the spirit of the Martyrs is alive and well as many, like them, are standing up to those who seek to oppress them and to take away their rights. At this time, the GAWU remains firm that the elections were credibly conducted and the legitimate Government should take the reins of State.

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