Georgetown, Guyana – (December 31, 2016) A team from the Government, the Parliamentary Opposition, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), the Guyana Agricultural and Workers’ Union (GAWU) and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), today, met at the Ministry of the Agriculture to begin consultations to determine a way forward for the sugar industry. At the end of the meeting, all of the parties expressed their satisfaction on the move by the Government to hold consultations and the proceedings of the initial meeting.
The Government team was led by Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan and included Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Noel Holder, Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Volda Lawrence, Minister of Natural Resources, Mr. Raphael Trotman, Minister of Business, Mr. Dominic Gaskin and Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Jaipaul Sharma, while the Opposition team was led by General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Mr. Clement Rohee and included Mr. Irfaan Ali, Mr. Dharamkumar Seeraj and Mr. Juan Edghill.
GAWU and NAACIE were represented by their Heads, Mr. Komal Chand and Mr. Kenneth Joseph, respectively. Representatives from the various sugar estates including Wales, Albion, Skeldon, Enmore and Uitvlugt were also present.
Leading the Government team, Mr. Ramjattan, in an invited comment at the conclusion of the meeting, said that Cabinet took the decision at its last sitting, to have the consultations begin at the soonest possible time. Registering his satisfaction with this initial meeting, the Minister said that consultations are being conducted to ensure that the best interest of all stakeholders will be considered.
“I am happy to state that indeed it was very civilized. We made a major decision at last Cabinet that we do have to have consultations and it will be extended now. The documentation that we gave them as to the options proposed to us by GuySuCo has been shared and they said that they needed time to study it and we agreed with that because they only got them this morning. They have asked for some further additional reports and studies as to what made GuySuCo come to the decision and to set out these options. I agree with them because they must have source documents and so it is important that they be part and parcel of the decision-making or at least know how we are thinking and that is important. I am very pleased with the entirety of the meeting,” Minister Ramjattan said.
Minister Harmon echoed similar sentiments, noting that despite the late notice members of the Opposition, the Unions and the estates still attended and were actively involved in the discussions, which will ultimately result in decisions being taken with regard to the sugar industry.
“I think they are all understand what the position is. We shared documents with them and I believe that we are going to have some fruitful consultations going forward since the [sugar] industry is a very important industry. It is of national significance and so decisions that are made in that regard must take into consideration those factors,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Opposition team, Mr. Rohee expressed thanks to the Government for the invitation to engage in the consultations as he noted that it is the livelihood of thousands of Guyanese that will be affected by any outcome.
GAWU Head, Mr. Chand said that this organisation and its members are satisfied that the Government has reached out to host consultations before coming to a final decision on the industry. “We were assured by the Government delegation that what they have are mere proposals and the proposals are for discussions and it is not a case where decisions are made and we are going through an exercise and that is satisfactory to us. We recognise that consultations have taken place and we take fact that the proposals are not final. That is acceptable to us,” he said.
Head of NAACIE, Mr. Joseph echoed similar sentiments as expressed by Mr. Chand, noting that the gesture by the Government has been noted and appreciated.
Notwithstanding the proposals put forward by GuySuCo, the Government has encouraged the Opposition and Unions to make their own recommendations based on all the information available on the state of the industry. A date and time for the next meeting will be determined after the Opposition and Unions would have had time to peruse the documents.