‘Sugar industry beaten down to its knees, workers tossed into heap of misery’ – President Ali
As the newly elected People’s Progressive Party Government seeks to keep its promise to re-open the four closed sugar estates across the country, President Irfaan Ali has said that the “the picture of the industry appears deeply distressing.”
In delivering his maiden address to the nation at his inauguration as Guyana’s ninth Executive President on Saturday at the National Cultural Centre, the President said the assets of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) “seemed” to have been stripped by the Government’s privatisation arm NICIL and “disposed of in a criminal manner.”
“The once greatest contributor to our nation’s economy has been beaten down to its knees, and the workers tossed to a heap of unemployment and misery.
“We intend to raise up the industry and to help it and its workers resume the once proud place in our economy,” President Ali said.
He said the sugar workers have been made to suffer “untold hardship.”
“Once proud men who worked in the sugar industry from sun-up to sundown, never complaining about the back-breaking nature of their jobs, are today barely scratching a living.
Their anguish is not only that they can’t earn a decent wage; it is that they cannot feed their families. Hunger and malnutrition abound.
“These conditions do not reflect the Guyana in which we were raised; this is not the Guyana we know. And, it is certainly not a Guyana we should allow to continue.”
He said the sugar industry has virtually been abandoned in the past five years, and the workers have been deserted.
“No attempt has been made to seek a new path by which aspects of the industry could be salvaged for the production of profitable sugar-based niche products, that would maintain jobs, and by doing so maintain the dignity of labour.”
The newly-appointed Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha on Thursday last assured that the PPP Government will stick to its promise of reopening the sugar estates closed by the former APNU+AFC administration.
The former Government closed the Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore sugar estates in a grand plan to restructure the sugar industry. As a result, thousands of sugar workers were fired in what was deemed the largest retrenchment in the local public and private sector.