THE closure of the sugar estates and the unendurable suffering of retrenched workers and their families decimated the Alliance For Change (AFC). All their leaders had promised, prior to elections of 2015, that they would not countenance the eradication and/or downsizing of the sugar industry, but would instead invest in its re-capitalisation, and increase the remuneration and benefits of the sugar workers.
They even hijacked the PPP/C’s mantra, “Sugar is too big to fail”.
Fast forward to 2017, when the APNU+AFC Government announced the closure of several sugar estates. Initially, the Wales Sugar Estate was named as the first to be closed.
The PPP/C made a solemn 2020 pre-election promise to re-open the sugar estates. In delivering his maiden address to the nation at his inauguration as Guyana’s ninth Executive President, His Excellency, Dr. Irfaan Ali said, “The picture of the industry appears deeply distressing.”
He revealed that the assets of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) “seemed” to have been stripped by the Government’s privatisation arm, NICIL, and “disposed of in a criminal manner”, and lamented, “The once greatest contributor to our nation’s economy has been beaten down to its knees, and the workers tossed to a heap of unemployment and misery.” He re-iterated his party’s pre-election promise, “We intend to raise up the industry, and to help it and its workers resume the once proud place in our economy.”
The President said the sugar workers have been made to suffer “untold hardship,” averring, “Once proud men who worked in the sugar industry from sun-up to sundown, never complaining about the back-breaking nature of their jobs, are today barely scratching a living. Their anguish is not only that they can’t earn a decent wage; it is that they cannot feed their families. Hunger and malnutrition abound; it is certainly not a Guyana we should allow to continue.”
The former Government closed the Rose Hall, Skeldon, Wales and Enmore sugar estates in a grand plan to restructure the sugar industry. However, their plan sent thousands of Guyanese, some their own supporters, on the breadline.
Charrandass Persaud, who hails from a sugar-producing community, Rose Hall, and whose entire family are strong PPP supporters, decided to take a diverse course and joined the AFC, in the process alienating many former friends and even some family members. But he believed in the lofty promises and grandiose plans of AFC leaders, especially Khemraj Ramjattan.
He used all his coercive powers to sway fellow Berbicians to follow suit. Aggrieved sugar workers, rice and cash-crop farmers, and members of the Berbice communities who had been mesmerised and encouraged by his rhetoric, abandoned the PPP; the party their families had supported for generations, and joined the APNU+AFC coalition, which was elected to Government in 2015. And then reality hit, and the horror that catalysed the downward spiral of the lives of hundreds of thousands of Guyanese began its catastrophic deceleration of the nation’s development paradigm.
The AFC leaders became the most hated members of the Coalition Cabinet, and Charandass Persaud became a pariah in his community, to the extent that not only his private life and communal relations were negatively impacted, but his law practice also was disastrously affected. He went from hero to zero in his home community.
Worse of all, he witnessed, first-hand, the suffering of the people in his community, whose lives had become hellish nightmares, to the point where parents had to truncate their children’s education, and some had to endure seeing their children go hungry.
Former Opposition Leader, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo announced the filing of the No-Confidence motion on November 15, and debated in the National Assembly on Friday, December 21.
When the vote was taken, AFC Parliamentarian, Charandass Persaud, courageously, at great risk to his safety, voted affirmatively in favour of the Opposition, toppling the PNC-led coalition government in one fell swoop.
The Speaker of the House allowed the Clerk of the Assembly to call a recount of Government’s votes from the start, but Persaud did not recant, and adamantly repeated, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
However, despite constitutional diktat stipulates that general elections be held within 90 days of the vote of no-confidence in the Government, unless postponed by a two-thirds majority of the House, the illegal de facto Granger Government defiantly refused to adhere to constitutional prerequisites, and the aftermath now forms an inglorious part of Guyana’s history.