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APNU+AFC’s ‘attack’ on sugar workers started since 2011

Nandlall says; calls out Ramjattan for now using workers for political gain
ATTORNEY-GENERAL and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C., has accused former Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan of using sugar workers to further his political agenda.

Nandlall made those remarks on Tuesday during his weekly Facebook programme, Issues in the News, during which he shed light on the contentious history between the APNU+AFC, and sugar workers, with allegations of broken promises and neglect.

“From the moment the APNU+AFC got a one-seat majority in the National Assembly after the 2011 elections, they started to attack the sugar workers. In fact, it is sugar workers, I believe, that’s allowed them to get the one-seat majority.

“It is the sugar workers that allowed them to get that one-seat majority. Khemraj Ramjattan went into the sugar belt, they went into the order lines, and they used to speak to the workers and made all sorts of promises to them. And the workers believed them and gave them the votes,” Nandlall said.
The Attorney-General further detailed that despite the promises made by Ramjattan and his party during the 2015 elections, the coalition government closed multiple sugar estates, leaving thousands of workers jobless.

“They [APNU+AFC] got a one-seat majority, and one of the first things that they began to do when they got that one-seat majority was to cut all subsidies to sugar,” Nandlall lamented.
He highlighted instances where Ramjattan, as part of the APNU+AFC government, allegedly promised support for the sugar industry and assured workers that it was “too big to fail.”
However, Nandlall contended that within the first year of the coalition government’s tenure, they closed the Wales Estate, leaving over 2,100 sugar workers unemployed. Subsequently, Enmore, Rose Hall, and Skeldon estates were also shuttered, leaving over 7,000 workers jobless.

Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan

“They promised them severance which they never paid. GuySuCo (Guyana Sugar Corporation) never paid,” Nandlall recalled.
He continued, recalling the legal battle fought on behalf of sugar workers seeking severance pay. He accused the APNU+AFC government of resisting the workers’ claims in court, causing significant delays in receiving their rightful compensation.

“They defended the case, causing the matter to delay even more…the judges had to rule, and ruled against them… they didn’t consent to the judgment. They didn’t pay. We had to go to arguments, and then the judges ruled in our favour,” Nandlall said.
He highlighted that the delayed legal proceedings had a profound impact on the lives of the sugar workers. Nandlall said that some workers were driven to desperate measures as they struggled to provide for their families.

He said that while in opposition, the People’s Progressive Party made a decision that if the party got into government, it would pay the severed sugar workers a $250,000 grant.
“These are workers who were dismissed since 2017. They haven’t worked since 2017. Those who are protesting never got dismissed and those people who got dismissed in 2017 were paid $250,000. We already rehired 1,500 from 2020 to 2022. And now we are hiring 1100 more for Rose Hall estates,” he said.
Turning his attention to the current protests by sugar workers who are now demanding severance pay, Nandlall argued that these workers were not dismissed in 2017, as their counterparts who received the grants.

Instead, they had continuously worked, earning more than those who were laid off.
“Now, because we are hiring those people, this set who were working all the time, now want compensation. They want severance… you can’t get severance if you have not been severed. They were working…. This is just envy. And that is what the protest is,” Attorney-General said.

Nandlall labelled Ramjattan’s involvement with the protesting sugar workers as politically motivated opportunism.
“…That is why Ramjattan is rushing down there like a sympathising Judas. And Ramjattan will stand with them only because it suits him politically.
“The first opportunity he gets to kick them, he will do that. The first opportunity he gets, he is going to ill-treat them, and they will still have to come back to the People’s Progressive Party
(PPP),” he said.