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PPP-Civic warns that APNU+AFC will bring back food shortages

Minister of Culture Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony addressing a PPP Public Meeting at Better Hope, East Coast Demerara Wednesday night.

The People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) Wednesday night warned supporters not to vote the opposition coalition into office or they would again endure food shortages that had led to malnutrition.

Addressing a public meeting in that party’s traditional stronghold of Better Hope, East Coast Demerara, General Secretary of the PPP’s Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO), Sheila Veerasammy told the group of mostly young attendees that under the People’s National Congress  (PNC) “we were criminalized for eating food.”

“They criminalized us for simply eating dhal and rice and potato and sardine- food that the People’s Progressive Party has created the conditions that once you have money in your pocket you can eat everything. Do you want to go back there? … Certainly not,” the Political Scientist told about 300 persons.

After President Forbes Burnham died in August 1985, his successor, Desmond Hoyte, scrapped the socialist experiment and began spearheading the implementation of the Economic Recovery Programme, import bans on wheaten flour and other items were lifted.

The PNC- Reform is the major constituent in A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) which has teamed up in a pre-election coalition with the Alliance For Change (AFC) to contest the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank reflected on the difficulty of long food lines and hungry school children. “Under the PNC, many children used to go hungry to school,” he said, adding that in many hinterland communities there is a hot-meal programme for school children and biscuits fortified with vitamins for their counterparts on the coastland.

“Isn’t that a caring government? Because we don’t want to go back to those days of the PNC when people had white-mouth. We don’t want to go back to those days when people had beri-beri. You remember those things?  All those are signs of malnutrition,” he said.

“We don’t to go back to white-mouth days and if you allow those people who are now pretending that they have changed, then we can very well end up back with white-mouth and I know none of you want to have white-mouth,”  said Anthony.

Veerasammy recalled when people were taken to Hope Estate to work in exchange for one pint of oil, one cake of soap, and one pound of margarine. “Do you want people to turn you into slaves, riding on the back of a horse with a long whip on your hand telling you that you have to clean their fields so you can get a little bit of foodstuff  to give your children?… Absolutely not,” she said.

Government employees were expected back in the 1980s to go to Hope Estate where then President Forbes Burnham and his aides moved around on horsebacks while farm lands were cleaned and planted. Before leaving, they queued up for a ‘hamper’ containing items that Veerasammy referred to.

She said PPP supporters were discriminated against because they continued to vote solidly for the PPP since 1953 throughout the period of rigged elections from 1969 to 1985. The women’s rights activist promised that the PPP would ensure that the days of food bans and rigged elections were over and would never return once her party remains office.

Reflecting on the November 2011 general and regional elections, the WPO General Secretary told the gathering that the PPP did not lose that poll, but the issue was that the results were declared “a little bit early” before all the ballots were counted but that would not happen at next month’s elections. “We will ensure this time every single ballot is counted,” she said, while urging that everyone turns out to vote.

The PPP lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since 1992 when the first free and fair elections in 28 years were held.

Veerasammy boasted that roads, health care facilities and potable water supply have been improved in Better Hope, a lower East Coast Demerara village.

Anthony recalled that under the PNC basic medical supplies such as saline had to be rationed and prioritized among several patients. “You had to play God to decide who will get the bottle of saline. That was the kind of situation the PNC put the doctors in where they had to make a choice about who will live and who wouldn’t live,” said Anthony, a medical doctor by profession.

The Minister noted that the since the PPPC came to office there have been many more medical facilities have been built and health care workers trained locally and in Cuba.

He flayed the opposition APNU+AFC coalition for not supporting transformative projects like the Specialty Hospital and Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP). 

For its part, the opposition has justified withholding its support for those projects because of insufficient information, and concerns about viability and transparency.