I would like to respond to the missive written by one Tej Singh in the Guyana Chronicle of February 2, 2009, captioned, “Production shortfall in the sugar industry is climate related”.
This statement is furthest from the truth, and whichever clique is pushing this statement is misguiding the Guyanese public. It is unfortunate that such an important issue as sugar is being used by some of us to misguide the people, when there is serious work to be done.
Let me put Tej Singh’s fears to rest – sugar is “all a’we thing”, not the exclusive purview of some; and all patriotic Guyanese want to see sugar recover. Our constructive criticism is not aimed to bring sugar down but to build sugar.
When sugar decides to call on the Treasury, and it will, all taxpayers have to fund the call; so it is our business to concern ourselves with sugar.
Tej is correct in saying that the “prescribed duty of the Government is to make certain policies and decisions”, but with rights come responsibilities. The Government has a responsibility to explain to the population (possibly in Parliament) what has occurred in sugar since 2005, and what they are doing about it, since sugar belongs to the people of Guyana, not to the Government.
The Government is only the caretaker, and should know it has a responsibility to tell the real owners the full story.
Up to today, the full truth about sugar is not out in the open, and if Kaieteur News did not break the excerpts of the real story, these massive abnormalities in GuySuCo would have been kept a secret, and the end result would have been worse.
I want to quote what Vidura (a Minister in Hastinapur and expert in politics) said to Mother Kunti, in the Bhagwat Gita, to expound that misgovernment has no place in building a nation. Vidura said:
“Who can overcome the decrees of fate? What must happen happens. The good and evil that men do have to result in good and evil. How can man be called free when he is bound by this law of cause and effect?
He is a puppet in the hands of this law, it pulls the strings and he makes the movements. Our likes and dislikes are of no consequence. Everything is His Will, His Grace.”
This is the fundamental truth that governs human affairs, be it at the individual level, be it at the corporate level, be it at the Government level. Errors were made in Guysuco after the 2005 floods, and we are reaping the effects of those errors. Bad decisions have resulted in bad performance. Did we do adequate husbandry in the fields?
Did we adequately maintain our factories? The truthful answer to these two basic questions will point us to the source of our problems today, and from that we can formulate our solutions.
It is not too late to save GuySuCo, but the controllers of power at GuySuCo must engage the people with the full truth, weed out the negligence and waste, and GuySuCo will recover. I have no evidence of corruption at GuySuCo, but if it is a danger to the company, then it must be minimised.
The new board owes it to the people of Guyana to drop the hatchet whenever necessary, to preserve the good things and wipe out the evil in GuySuCo. If this is done, good will follow GuySuCo.
The recent importation of sugar from Guatemala makes very good economic sense at this point in the life of GuySuCo.
However, Tej Singh must be appreciative of the perceptive disgrace in Guyana importing sugar. When Hoyte did it in the early 90’s it was a perceptive disgrace then, and under the Jagdeo administration in 2009 it still remains a perceptive disgrace.
Guyana should be able to supply the EU and American markets and still have enough for the home markets. It is an effort in futility to argue otherwise. Spin doctors like Tej Singh really disgust me, because they are trying to change an untruth into a truth.
What is clear is that, after the 2005 floods, GuySuCo’s management was negligent in their agronomical practices, they were negligent in their factory maintenance programme, and they were negligent in their reports to the board.
The board, on the other hand, should have had the covert intelligence, gathered from its foot soldiers (the ordinary field and factory hands), on the state of affairs in the fields and factories.
The board should have taken action on that intelligence, because I am convinced that the sugar workers would have told GAWU what was going on. The facts are the board did too little too late.
This is a good lesson in the art of management – always appoint the best to the board (and the old GuySuCo board had some of the best agricultural and strategic minds in Guyana – Dr Permaul, Donald Ramotar, Komal Chand), always empower the board to ask the hard questions and take the hard decisions, since anything else is a disaster in waiting.
Trying to micro-manage all and sundry in Guyana is a certain path to buttress those with ego issues, but it will certainly lead to impoverishment of the masses.
I know the capability of men like Dr Gopaul and Mr Ramotar. We must give them the mandate to act regardless of the consequences, and believe you me, GuySuCo will experience turnaround.
Any attempt at interference in their work will just have detrimental consequences, and we all know where the buck stops when you know what hits the fan – not at the desks of the poor, hard working sugar workers.
In a previous article, the Guyana Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of Oaths to Affidavits referred to the episode of the backlog of cases in the court system. Mention was made about backlog, delays and accumulations.
A thorough examination of the court system will show that the procedures relating to trials are dependent on many factors, namely: the readiness of the prosecution to proceed with a hearing; the availability of the witnesses; the readiness of the defence attorney; the urgency to respond to several deferrals to avoid further or unnecessary delays by the presiding magistrates or trial judges, etc. But, in all of these, the worrying phenomenon is accumulation.
Every day new cases are enlisted into the court system, so the work load automatically increases for the number of magistrates and judges in the system. Many of these cases, however, are minor offences referring to the use of traffic, indecent language, domestic quarrels, stealing, etc. and they are subjected to the same general procedural sequence in court. Certainly, it is rather time-consuming and costly for minor offences to be put through this arduous trail in court.
The fact that the prisons are overcrowded with remand and untried cases, many as long as four to five years, means that the justice system continues to be hurt without speedy and conclusive trials. he Minister of Home Affairs is fully aware of this situation, and so his suggestion on mediation at the police level is timely and most welcome.
The JP Association is on record that it is very concerned about the huge backlog of cases in the court system, and its support for the following suggestions has been very clear:-
1. Temporary magistrates, as proposed by the Guyana Bar Association.
2. Passage of the Lay Magistrates Bill into law since 1999 - to address relevant cases in the outlying areas.
3. The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADM) initiative in dealing with matters that are court-connected.
4. The Community-based mediation which has its roots in the ‘Pancheyat’ system in the Indian communities and the ‘Council of the Elders’ in the predominantly African communities. A semblance of this system is in evidence in some villages on the Corentyne.
The Honourable Minister of Home Affairs states that the police personnel are “strategically positioned to have first-hand knowledge of any discontent or grumblings in communities.” (Kaieteur News: 01/02/2009). With this advantage, they would be in a better position to mediate in minor offences that do not necessarily warrant the prolonged court action.
While the JP Association applauds this statement, it is the JPs who are in a more advantageous position in the society to mediate as a neutral party in matters among contending parties in the communities, and it is their civic duty to maintain peace and help to resolve conflicts.
The police, on the other hand, are primarily concerned with the maintenance of law and order, and are subject to the regulations of the Guyana Police Force. Again, the police are strategically located according to the limitations of the several magisterial districts in the country, while the JPs are widely spread throughout the 10 administrative regions.
What is definitely a prerequisite for the success of Community-based Mediation is a more meaningful relationship between the JPs and the police.
The work of rehabilitation centres should not be underestimated. This should be reviewed, and relevant training programmes be conducted to benefit Welfare Officers, youth leaders, church elders, and counsellors countrywide to tackle problems at the community or grassroots level.