The opposition coalition of A Partnership for a National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Sunday night promised an increase in Old Age Pensions, an end to piracy of fishermen in Berbice and ensure that the sugar industry remains open.
Addressing about 5,000 persons at his home-village of Whim, Corentyne Prime Ministerial Candidate Moses Nagamootoo said in the first 100 days of being elected on May 11,2015 that old age pensions would be increased to GUY$15,000 per month. He said there would also be a 10 percent hike in salaries for government employees.
The overwhelming majority of the attendees were Afro-Guyanese in a predominantly East Indian region that is widely regarded as the heartland of the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic.
Nagamootoo said that after a “thorough investigation” of the Berbice Bridge Company the tolls would be cut by half. Lands, he said, would be opened up for various types of agricultural activities such as planting canes.
Alliance For Change Leader Khemraj Ramjattan went to great length to assure Berbicians that the politically sensitive sugar industry would not be closed but would be revived and made profitable to protect thousands of direct and indirect jobs. “We are not going to in any way close the sugar industry. If it is anybody that has brought it to the ground it is the People’s Progressive Party,” he said. Ramjattan said the existing board of “politicos” would be removed and replaced with professionals.
Any inkling by the opposition that the sugar corporation would be privatized or closed down is greeted with strong resistance and condemnation by the government and incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC).
Emphasis, he said, would be placed on the proper marketing of the sugar unlike the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (Guysuco) failure to take advantage of a price of US$780 per ton. He said eventually, the corporation settled for US$380 per ton and so lost US$87 million “because of that reckless almost criminal act by Board Members.” Ramjattan explained that as a result sugar workers lost out on GUY$17.5 billion in emoluments. To make his point that Guysuco was running at a loss, he said sugar was being produced at US$30 cents per pound and sold at US$13 cents per pound.
On the issue of rice, the AFC Leader accused government of exploiting rice farmers through an unnamed company that he said was formed by top officials of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and businessmen. Through that company, he said rice was being sold to Venezuela under the PetroCaribe initiative at GUY$8,000 per bag but farmers were only drawing down GUY$3,000 per bag. “It is but exploitation at the highest levels… and this is how they manage to get rich and live the Sultanate, Maharaja lifestyles that they live- the big Chatree and all,” he said.
In a region plagued by the highest rate of suicides, coalition activist Supriya Singh said if elected the APNU+AFC-led administration would provide counseling and increase job opportunities in Berbice to reduce depression associated with joblessness.
Presidential Candidate David Granger stressed that a coalition-led administration would eliminate piracy and other crimes on the Corentyne. “The PPP does not care about the Corentyne. Put in a government that cares about the Corentyne and we are going to eradicate piracy- an APNU+AFC government,” he said.
Plans, he said, are in train to address increasing traffic accidents and improve police response to emergency calls.
Reasoning that Corentyne residents are leaving in droves due to piracy, other crimes and road accidents, he promised that an APNU+AFC administration would “stem the tide of migration when we make Guyana a favorable and friendly destination for them.”
Nagamootoo announced that there would be Code of Conduct for persons in public life to guard against graft and other forms of corruption. “We would not visit now what has happened in a new government. We would like to see all our governments abide by a Code of Conduct so that they do not steal the taxpayers’ money, so they do not take bribes under the table and most importantly they do not walk around like the big bad wolf with new, brighter teeth so that they can smile at your misery with your money,” he said.
APNU+AFC plans to improve education, create value-added enterprises to increase employment and generate more revenue, and generate renewable energy.