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Letter: Rose Hall workers say it’s not too late to reconsider closure decision

Members of the media, we are indeed very pleased that you have accepted the invitation of our Union – the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) – today. We are hopeful that, through you, our concerns and fears will be shared with the public. We are also hopeful that our message would reach a listening ear of our decision makers and would prompt them to take a second look at our situation.
Ladies and gentleman, those of us present here today are representatives of the thousands who are employed at Rose Hall Estate as well as the several thousands more who depend on the estate’s operations for their well-being. We were very much saddened to learn on October 13, 2017, that GuySuCo communicated its intent to close our estate in a few short weeks. While we were aware of previous statements by Government and GuySuCo officials regarding Rose Hall’s closure, we were hopeful that there would have been a re-look at the intention recognizing the obvious hardship that would result from the estate’s closure. Moreover, we hoped that our decision-makers recognizing the difficulties which now face the people of Wales would have harboured second thoughts. Despite GuySuCo’s recent communication, we believe, there is still time to re-consider the closure approach.

Regarding the estate’s closure, we are aware that this has long been advocated by the topmost man in the sugar industry. It is a position he has held for over two (2) decades now and has sought implementation on a few occasions. It was pleasing to know that those who he sought to convince in the past resisted his ideas. It seems now this ‘snake oil’ salesman has found a willing partner/s to assist him in implementing such nefarious plans.

Rose Hall Estate occupies a significant place in the history of the sugar industry in Guyana. It was not too far from the current estate that in 1763 the Berbice Slave Rebellion led by Cuffy took place. It was also at Rose Hall in 1913 that the killing of 15 indentured labourers took place. Both incidents highlighted the cruel plantation system and the dogged determination of the workers then to seek a better day for themselves and their descendants. Rose Hall was also the site chosen, by then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, to have the Vesting Day activity on May 26, 1976 when the sugar industry was nationalized and GuySuCo was established. In fact, a plaque was sited at the Estate to commemorate that historic moment. We recall the pride we felt as Guyanese being the owners of the industry and we were promised by then Prime Minister Burnham that better days were ahead for us. We also wish to point out that Rose Hall Estate is the only estate that has been awarded a national award – the Medal of Service.

For us of Rose Hall, closure can be seen as a death knell for so many hardworking people and their families. For us of Rose Hall, closure means that our plans for life, our dreams for a better tomorrow, and our aspirations for our children and grandchildren have all but been dashed. For us of Rose Hall, closure will bring about uncertain times and many difficult, misery-filled days ahead. For us of Rose Hall, closure brings about real questions like where would our next meal come from, how would our children and grandchildren go to school, and how would we earn and meet our obligations. For us of Rose Hall, closure means difficult choices have to be made:- would we eat or would we pay the electricity bills; would we send the children to school or would we buy clothes; would we starve or do we have to do something not necessarily right to put food on the table. These, ladies and gentlemen of the media, are some of the stark but real choices we would face should the planned closure be implemented. Closure could very well force good people to do things they shouldn’t do. This is the life and this is the tomorrow we are being pushed into.

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