-Workers must not be blinded by gripers
In his address to those gathered in commemoration of the 5 workers killed at Enmore in protest against poor working conditions and other infringements of their rights by the then colonial government President Bharrat Jagdeo waded into the earlier presentation of Guyana Trade Unions Congress (GTUC) President Ms. Gillian Burton, pointing out he finds it very strange that the GTUC President spoke eloquently of what happened in 1948 and then made a quantum lead to 1992, creating a massive vacuum of what happened during those years in between.
He said strange enough, no mention was made of what happened to sugar workers, workers generally, and the people of Guyana, in addition to the country’s economic decline, how difficult the task is today for the government to lift the populace out of the dept of poverty created by the former administration.
“I have not heard of any call of the tear-gassing of people around the country when they struggled for democracy to add that to our calendar of events, or the bauxite workers when dogs were let loose on them in their struggle for their rights as workers,” the Guyanese Head of State queried, drawing the applaud of the large gathering.
Recalling his early days as a teacher during the 1948/ 1992 period, Jagdeo said many of his students had nothing to eat and the times were so tough that families’ mere focus was survival.
“I don’t deny that today many families across our country face difficulties, but to ask a question like are you satisfied today ignores the difficulties that we have had to bring people from to levels where we are now.
“We take over a government and the schools are all in a state of disrepair, hospitals don’t have drugs, equipment, beds etc.
“When you have an inflation rate that is triple digit, then you have a debt that the servicing takes up 94 per cent of your revenue and another 20 per cent of revenue goes to pay public servants - you think for your self - how difficult the task would have been for that government, the incoming government, to start framing a policy that will lift people out of that morass,” Jagdeo put forward.
He said the critics, like Burton, must be objective when they ask that the government be fair and for justice and truth to prevail; they must not be convenient with the truth as they will not be paying a proper tribute to the memories of those who suffered.
The President said no one will be satisfied with his economic status and social well-being because the more people get, they more they want and this is normal human behaviour.
“We will never be able to satisfy everyone of our people’s expectation, especially given where we have started from,” he acknowledged.
But the President underlined that government has made significant strides in this regard, pointing to the construction of the poly clinic in Enmore, the many others on the East Coast Demerara, as well as similar facilities at Diamond, Leonora, Mahaicony, Port Mourant and Suddie.
These, he said, are in addition, to the building of massive hospitals at Linden, Mabaruma and Lethem.
“We have 600 kids who will be coming back as young doctors to staff them, that’s where the money is going today.
“Three miles away from here, another new secondary school is under construction (the Hope Secondary School) for the people who live here, that’s where the money is going.
“If you look at pensions, you would see what has happened for the pensioners, if you look at the water supply system which is still bad, but we have awarded a contract of $132M to interconnect the East Coast.
“We are spending on electricity, we lost many of the old units, but we are spending US$30M so that by September, another 22 megawatt plant will come on stream,” President said.
He said too that the housing sector will be further transformed to ensure as many as possible, if not all citizens own their own home.
“We are setting aside in a matter of weeks $2B to assist those people who can’t get money from the bank because they are too old to start their construction,” Jagdeo said.
He underscored that his government cannot satisfy the expectation of every Guyanese, but promised to spend the money on infrastructure to improve their lives and not any trivial investment as has been the case of the former administration.
The Guyanese Head of State also contended that Burton is out of her mind to think that the government which has ratified more International Labour Organisations (ILO) conventions than any other country in this region is anti-labour.
He said it is unfounded to believe that a government who is so pro-labour will go to parliament to take away workers’ right when the very government passed the Trade Union Recognition Act which was opposed by some member of the GTUC.
That legislation allowed workers the right to chose representation of any union of their choice.