The whole of E.C.D. is traumatised, not only Buxton
Mr. Eric Phillips, in a letter to the Kaieteur News (April 21, 2008), expresses his grave concern over the treatment that has been meted out to the people of Buxton.
He should be commended for providing support for his Afro-Guyanese brothers. Please permit me to ask Mr. Phillips some questions, if I may:
1. Didn’t the Guyana Government provide financial reimbursement to the Buxton farmers for the hardship that they and their children endured as a result of the operation of the Joint Services?
2. Were the operations of the Joint Services in Buxton necessary and long overdue? All law-abiding Guyanese will think so.
3. There are lots of wealthy and successful Afro-Guyanese. Was financial and food assistance requested from them, in addition to soliciting assistance from the various embassies?
4. Does Mr. Phillips agree that Buxton is a haven for notorious criminals?
5. Did ACDA request the Guyana Government for food assistance?
6. Is Mr. Phillips aware that Indians were also brutally and mercilessly gunned down in Bartica, and a fund is yet to be set up?
7. Our country has been under siege for several years by merciless murderers. Does Mr. Phillips agree that most of the criminal elements responsible for the crime surge are from Buxton (and Agricola)?
8. Does Mr. Phillips recognise the psychological impact on the families whose loved ones were senselessly and brutally gunned down by the criminal elements in Buxton? In most cases, sole bread-winners were massacred. Life for the surviving spouses and children will never be the same.
9. Is Mr. Phillips suggesting that only the people in Buxton have feelings and undergo trauma?
10. Mr. Phillips indicated that “Buxton is a severely traumatised community”. What about the entire East Coast Demerara? Many of my relatives who reside on the East Coast Demerara cannot sleep at nights, have nightmares, suffer from anxiety, depression, hypertension, etc. Aren’t they innocently traumatized?
11. Mr. Phillips stated that Minister Rodrigues “is representing a very unjust regime and the world knows this”. This is an irresponsible and dangerous statement to be made by someone who is representing the Afro-Guyanese community. It is not only erroneous, but is also a blatant lie. The entire global community (government and financial) has praised Guyana for its thrust towards democracy, and they unanimously agreed that Guyana is on a progressive track. Why the inaccuracy, Mr. Phillips?
12. No one in Guyana is envious if any village receives money. What makes Mr. Phillips think so, since we are all struggling to make ends meet and to face the global rise in food prices?
13. Indian communities do not receive the “most money per capita”, as he suggested. Where are the numbers, Mr. Phillips?
14. Why doesn’t Mr. Phillips use his influence in USA and Africa to solicit additional assistance? The Government is limited financially.
15. Everyone knows that the majority of Buxtonians are decent human beings. When will Mr. Phillips provide help to the authorities to seek out the very small percentage of criminals who are giving Buxton a bad name? Remember the saying, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel”.
16. Mr. Phillips’s recent write-up on marginalisation lacks substance. When will Mr. Phillips provide credible back-up data?
I, and all law-abiding Guyanese who want a progressive Guyana look forward to Mr. Phillips’s reply.
Blame the Government
Abusing a situation for no reason
The labour scene has taken a different direction, and this new direction has nothing to do with conditions at the place of work. There was a time when strikes were related to the job, and if something happened at the workplace that caused the workers to become dissatisfied, then they were allowed to mount a protest. Not so today.
Sugar workers in Berbice have found that things are expensive in the marketplace. What they used to buy a few months ago with a certain sum of money cannot now be bought with the same amount of money.
It would have been understood if the sugar industry had actually cut back on paying the workers and they, the workers, had decided to strike. However, what the sugar workers are experiencing is a global phenomenon that has sent the cost of food items skyrocketing. These sellers know that, if they hold out long enough, they can get even more money for what they sell, so the situation is becoming worse.
Every section of the community has been affected, and there are fears that the situation would get worse, because already the local importers are finding that the people from whom they buy goods are holding back. The entire world, even our relatives in the U.S., are facing the crunch.
At the same time, oil prices have risen to record levels. A few months ago, when the world was waiting to see if the price would reach US$100 per barrel and economists were speculating on the outcome of such a move, the world could only sit back and imagine.
That price has reached and passed the US$100 per barrel of crude oil level, so there is no longer a need to try to understand what would happen. The oil we import, which is refined, is over US$150 per barrel.
The effects are already being felt, and with severe consequences, to the extent that people all over the world have raised their voices in complaint and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries—OPEC—will be meeting once more to see if anything could be done about the rising oil prices.
Commonsense would tell the world that the higher the price for oil, the happier would the seller be. Indeed, he would, like the rest of the world, be caught up in the situation where he would have to spend more on food, but he would have the advantage of having more money so that he could pay more.
Guyana is not an oil producer, so it is caught between a rock and a hard place. It has to pay more for food, and it has to pay more for oil. Can we blame the Government for this? One should not be surprised that this seems to be the case, since Robert Corbin and his supporters are actually making this situation a cause for protest against the Government.
Corbin was in the seat of government when a situation like this happened. Oil prices rose astronomically shortly after his Government felt that it had things under control and scrapped the railway. It happened again in the 1980s, to the extent that there was scarcely enough fuel in the marketplace.
Motorists slept in lines outside service stations, and housewives stood in lines to buy just about everything — from basic rice grown right here, to milk for their children, and soap for the domestic cleansing chores.
Corbin and his Government tolerated no protest, and in any case the people were under the yoke, so they toed the line but waited for the day when they could be free to express their true feelings.
This freedom has been achieved, to the extent that people are abusing it. In the case of the sugar workers, they decided to protest and to strike over something that was not even remotely industrial, or in any way linked to the Guyana Sugar Corporation. The situation that they face is being faced by every category of Guyanese and every worker. The sugar workers, by their own admission, say that they earn $20,000 per week. A newly trained teacher earns about $7,500 a week; qualified nurses earn about the same thing; policemen, soldiers, and public servants do not earn much more.
The sugar workers say that their pay is inadequate, so they struck. The other categories of workers, on the other hand, know that the situation cannot be helped, and they continue to work knowing that the Government is doing everything to make the situation less pressing and stressful.
And Corbin and his friends in the opposition are relishing the fact that strikes hurt the country, and he would want to see nothing better than the country being hurt for his narrow political gains—power at all cost.
He is the primary source of the chant ‘blame the government’ and there are those who, without understanding the reason for the chant, repeat it. The Berbice sugar workers appear to be the latest of the lot.