General Secretary of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo Wednesday night accused government of misleading Guyanese that genuine consultations would have been held first before deciding the fate of the bankrupt Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco).
Jagdeo said United States-based Guyanese Brian Wesley Kirton was authorised before the consultations to search for investors in Guysuco,
“This was before they invited us to the perfunctory, the cursory consultations they called on the 30th of December and invited us to meet on the 31st of December to discuss the sugar industry and then they called in February the day before and invited us to another meeting and they closed the consultation but this authorisation was issued before any consultation and before they had said they had settled on the future of the industry,” Jagdeo said.
However, Kirton Wednesday night rubbished Jagdeo’s claims. “I don’t think the government is misinforming or misleading the opposition. I don’t think is that at all. What the government is doing is moving on parallel fronts.
In the event that privatisation becomes the option that they use, whether in whole or in part, then they won’t be at the last minute be looking for investors,” Kirton told Demerara Waves Online News.
Addressing a public meeting at Enmore, East Coast Demerara to commemorate the slaying of five sugar workers by colonial police on June 16 1948 during a protest, the former Guyanese leader read the authorisation dated November 16, 2016 and signed by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon authorising an emissary to discuss the partial or total sale of the state-owned corporation with potential investors.
“The Government of Guyana hereby authorises Mr. Brian Wesley Kirton to engage in discussions on its behalf with interested companies/ parties regarding their possible interest in acquiring the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) in whole or in part and to facilitate the arrangements for negotiations between Government and interested parties/ companies,” states the letter.
When contacted by Demerara Waves Online News, Kirton confirmed that he has been authorised, but rejected Jagdeo’s claim that Guyanese have been mislead. However, Kirton disagreed with Jagdeo that Guyanese had been duped into believing that there would have been consultations.
“I don’t think the government is misleading anybody. The government, as I understand it, is looking at all options of which privatisation is one and we have been engaging some companies from various parts of the world,”
The letter of authorisation was issued to Kirton about one month after the Guysuco Commission of Inquiry Report
was handed over by Commission Chairman, Vibert Parvattan to then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture. By the end of December, 2016, government had announced the establishment of a cabinet sub-committee to consult and share documents with the two sugar unions and the PPP on the future of the industry. It was at the first meeting that government had floated proposals to sell off a number of a number of Guysuco’s estates and shed non-core operations like drainage and health services. By May 8, 2017 government formally announced the closure of several factories and estates and set an annual target of 147,000 tonnes of the sweetener.
The Guyana government’s authorisation states that Kirton can “share any and all information and documentation, including proprietary information required by interested parties to determine their interest in entering into negotiations with the Government of Guyana.”
The Opposition Leader slammed government for engaging in a “show” that they were listening to the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union and the PPP in determining Guysuco’s future. “They had already made a decision on the entire industry and this exposes the duplicity of this government. It cannot be trusted. It never negotiates in good faith,” he said.
Jagdeo said despite the APNU+AFC coalition’s electoral promises that it would not have destroyed the sugar industry, it came to power with a notion that it had to dismantle the industry despite the consequences for Guyana and the industry’s behaviour.
The former Guyanese leader said the David Granger-led administration has failed to say what it would do with the 10,000 direct workers and their families- a total of 50,000 persons- who would lose their jobs when factories and estates are closed.
In addition to the already closed Wales Estate, Skeldon and Enmore will be closed. Production, he said, would be limited to Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt Estates. The State Paper on Guysuco states that Albion and Rose Hall estate’s cultivation will be amalgamated and will result in the closure of the Rose Hall factory at the end of 2017 with some of the lands being made available for diversification.