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Wales sugar workers protest estate closure outside of Parliament

P_20160121_125609Scores of sugar workers that are attached to the Wales Estate descended on Parliament Buildings on Thursday afternoon in staunch protest of a decision by the Guyana Sugar Company (GuySuCo) to shut down the estate.

They shouted “Don’t Close Wales,” “We need sugar,” “Long live Wales Estate” and “Dont close no estate,” while their placards read “No to the closure of Wales Estate,” “No to Privatisation,” “Workers Unite, “Fight Unemployment,” APNU and AFC betraying sugar workers.”

The march, under the watchful eyes of unarmed police, was peaceful and done behind a police cordon to hammer home their point to government lawmakers that the estate’s closure would have several negative ripple effects.

Demerara Waves spoke to a few of the protesters all of whom expressed dissent with the decision to close the estate at the end of 2016.

“We don’t able to punish. We don’t want estate to close because we have to work and we have children,” said Norma Martin. Ms. Martin worked at the sugar estate for the last 25 years as a weeder and said she would find it difficult to move on now.

“Transportation is close to me…I work a long time there and I feel I shouldn’t go somewhere more far to get a job,” she said. Asked whether the estate being closed at the end of the year would work for her, she stated yes since it would give her enough time to prepare.

“I am satisfied…I don’t mind but once I am still in a job,” she said. Another worker, employed with the company for 25 years also did not agree with the move to close the estate.

Satesh Lakeram said “We don’t want the estate closed. We nah want it close because we don’t have an alternative.” “I feel the President and the Prime Minister should use humanitarian feelings and don’t close the estate,” said Dale Austin.

Protesters were joined by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, former President Donald Ramotar and other members of the Opposition. Government has stated that with the closure of the estate all of the workers will be absorbed by neighbouring Uitvlugt.

The workers and the PPP are peeved at the closure of the Wales Estate in another year, saying that would mean that only private cane farmers would be producing.

Government says plans are being made to dig a waterway from Wales to Uitvlugt Factory where the cane would be milled into sugar.

Representative of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union, Sultan Hussain denied claims by government that the century-old factory and estate were an “economic nightmare.”

Hussain, backed by others, said that with some money injected into factory spares, Wales Estate’s production could be improved.

Hussain contended that President David Granger has been fooled into agreeing to the closure of Wales Estate and that he should be invited there to meet with workers to explain to him the true situation.

The PPP has argued that the estate is more than about sugar but is tied to drainage and irrigation for rice farming and other agricultural production as well as other businesses such as transportation, shops and restaurants.

  • trinibaii

    Invite dem for what ..dictators speak no one question …it going down .and mo pressure for Guyanese ..

  • melkend

    As usual these folks are failing to see the forest for the trees. No factory a century old should be in production today. The PPP had been in power for the past 23 years. If they had the workers welfare in mind, they would have updated or replaced the factory years ago. In the long run, sugar has been a loosing proposition. Brazil our next door neighbour became energy independent in 10 years by producing ethanol from their sugar. Why can Guyana do the same? We pay so much for a gallon of gas, not to mention ethanol is considered green energy.

  • long_legs

    goes to show how misguided these sugar workers are and how mistirected this protest is as arguably the most irresponsible group of industrial employees continue to exhibit how willing they are to be used as pawns in the ppp vote getting scheme.

    anyone with half a brain will tell you that this protest should have taken place right in front of freedom house where the architects of the demise and destruction of the sugar industry gather to concoct how to take everything and turn it into victimhood and how to pull wool over some people’s eyes in order to get them to go shout slogans like “long live wales estate” which is essentially a junk heap that will suck the little life out of the rest of sugar estates should it remain operation .

    this current administration must not be intimidated, especially since; under the morally and ethically bankrupt former ppp government, now turned into rabble rousers, shuttered the doors of diamond and lbi sugar estates.

  • Emile_Mervin

    While I maintain the coalition should have engaged GAWU, as a matter of courtesy, on this decision, where were these sugar workers when Jagdeo closed Diamond and LBI and screwed up Skeldon?

    Given that Jagdeo knew since 2008 Wales was a financial drain on the treasury, he should not be misleading these people. But when you can’t think for yourself, others will have to think for you.

    Sugar workers should take note that Jagdeo is not in the protest line with them. And the reason is simple: he is not one of them. He uses them for his own personal gain. How many sugar workers own homes in the Pradovilles? Even if a sugar estate closes down, Jagdeo will still get retirement benefits sugar workers can only dream of.