Dear Editor,I am reminded of an article titled, ‘Party Paramountcy’ which was published in Caribbean Life in August 2016 which aptly summarises the PNC’s ideology during the Burnham dark era. It stated that, ‘Burnham ruled Guyana using his publicly proclaimed euphemism: “party paramountcy.” The party, not the state, controlled the arms of the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Police, departments of government and, in critical matters, parts of the judiciary, the electoral machinery, the media, the trade unions.’It went further to state that, ‘Burnham possessed two additional arms: the “Death Squad,” that is police in plain clothes and Rabbi Washington’s House of Israel. These conducted surveillance, and viciously smashed opposition elements, using hockey sticks and batons. The second were enforcers, bullies, extortionists, hit squads, strike-breakers, anti-union operators, deacons, black Jews and nuts and plantain-chip vendors in one.’I can vividly recall during the early ‘70s poverty and hunger were everywhere and jobs were few and only those with PNC membership cards gained access to scarce food items and employment. It was during this time that the Burnham dictatorship promised to ‘Feed Clothe and House’ the Nation by 1976. Many persons were forced to join PNC groups and youths joined the Young Socialist Movement, the youth arm of the PNC. Many of my friends joined and yet could not secure jobs because of their race. They had to go through a more stringent test. They were forced to join the Guyana national Service and some who went to Kimbia came back disillusioned!Moreover, I can also clearly recall the ‘co-op shops’ run by the PNC, again PNC membership cards were needed to access food items. ‘The state-run External Trade Bureau, handled all imports which it then redistributed to PNC-organised “cooperatives” known as Knowledge Sharing Institutes strategically located in predominantly Afro-Guyanese areas. These retail outlets sold preferentially to persons who produced PNC membership cards and they acted to squeeze the small rural mainly Indian-owned groceries out of business.I can recall persons from my village going to the neighboring Fyrish Village in the hope of getting some cooking oil and butter only to be disappointed when they reached the end of the ‘Guyline’! The PNC members lived happily in those days because they could enjoy the ‘scarce’ goods.Party paramountcy invaded every aspect of Guyanese lives, be it food; be it jobs; be it contracts; be it any form of Government services and I have seen that PNC ideology slowly surfacing since this Government took Office. Recently, a young woman was promised a job if she contested the Local Government Election (LGE) as an APNU candidate in a PPP stronghold. She managed only 13 votes but I do hope she gets the job since she fulfilled her side of the bargain!Therefore, what Volda Lawrence said was an echo of the truth and no amount of apology and whitewashing will remove the fact that party paramountcy is being revived by the PNC like many other traits inherent in the old PNC Order. Her message is clearly received that if anyone wants a job or contract then a PNC membership card is a vital qualification requirement.What is shameful though, is that the AFC and its Leader have become eunuchs – just agreeing and disagreeing as the situation demands. Moreover, Trotman’s attempt at damage control by labeling the statement as an ‘unnecessary distraction’ simply accentuates the AFC’s inability to be factual, decisive and independent of the influence of the PNC’s faction of the coalition.This Government is once again crossing its limits and must be reminded that the root of all evil is the abuse of power and the masses are cognisant of this abuse and will speak decisively come 2020!Yours sincerely,Haseef Yusuf
Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan has admitted that his party played an integral role in the decision to close sugar estates across the country – a move which affected thousands of Guyanese and which was widely criticised by stakeholders.AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan“When the sugar sector decision was made to close estates and factories and merge some of them, it was primarily the AFC who was a big part of that decision,” Ramjattan said during a Globespan 24×7 programme on Wednesday.“Myself, Mr [Prime Minister Moses] Nagamootoo, and a whole host of other AFC members were part of that decision,” the AFC Leader declared.He was at the time responding to a question posed by the moderator, who asked why the AFC has not represented the thousands of workers – where the party’s support base lies – who were negatively affected when the estates were closed.But according to Ramjattan, “nobody was disenfranchised.” He contended that an “economic decision” had to be made for the sugar sector.“So, it was not a PNC decision that we were forced to accept,” Ramjattan contended.The Rose Hall EstateIn 2016, the Government announced the closure of the first sugar estate located at Wales on the West Bank of Demerara (WBD).The move was made despite the fact that Government spent millions of dollars to hold a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which recommended that there be no closure of the sugar estates.Estates at Enmore, Skeldon and Rose Hall were subsequently shut down – triggering widespread controversy.More than 10,000 persons have been directly and indirectly affected by the closure of these estates.Nearly 4000 workers from Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon were dismissed in late 2017, and over 1000 were dismissed from Wales in the previous year.Cottage industries that were once thriving in some of the communities in close proximity to the estates are now dying as spending power has been significantly diminished among the local populace.Retrenched workers, most of whom were breadwinners of their families, are still struggling to find a steady job – despite several piecemeal initiatives rolled out by the Government.Despite calls by stakeholders, the Government refused to conduct a socioeconomic study before closing the estates.In fact, an executive member of the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) – a member of the coalition Government – had blasted the APNU/AFC for not conducting social impact assessments before making such a decision.“I think that when you are making decisions to lay off so many people, you have to think about the impact of families and on communities; and I think the decision makers did not put enough thought into that impact, and we are clearly seeing that here,” Hinds had expressed during an event at Patentia – a community neighbouring Wales.The rippling effects of the closure of the sugar estates can be seen in those communities, especially in the commercial districts where activities have practically been ground to a halt.Market areas which were once bustling are now almost isolated.In some cases, families face a daily struggle in finding a way to send their children to school.Government had eventually arranged a $30 billion bond, guaranteed by the State and National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) assets, to recapitalise the sugar sector.But to date, little information is available on how the money was spent.