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Guyana - Trouble in the air

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Guyana - Trouble in the air

Unread post by bimjim » Sat Feb 07, 2009

http://guyanaprovidencestadium.blogspot ... n-air.html
http://www.kaieteurnews.com/2009/02/06/ ... n-the-air/

Guyana - Trouble in the air
February 6, 2009 By knews

Finally a group of workers has decided to join the sugar workers and show some courage in striking for a better livelihood in Guyana. The air traffic controllers struck for six days and their protest included picketing action outside Minister Benn’s Office (political and industrial-related picketing is something that is scarcer than elephants in Guyana). The controllers were fired. Then President Jagdeo intervened yesterday.

Before further discussion on this strike, let me tell you about a little story about political betrayal and the nastiness of the PPP, the very PPP that so many of the world admired from 1960 to 1992.

In the middle nineties, students in the Faculty of Social Sciences at UG staged a huge demonstration against an expatriate lecturer in the Department of Sociology who refused to mark their essays. Their colleagues from other faculties joined the protest and a massive school of students took their anger to the streets Georgetown.

In the thick of things was the daughter of one of the big decision-makers inside the PPP’s war room. When the girl went home that afternoon, she met with a father whose indignations were brimming over. He chastised her for her participation in the street protest. She told me that she was confused because all she was doing was what normal students do.

The father had a different interpretation and was coming from a different wavelength. His attitude was that the PPP was in power now and pickets, strikes, demonstrations, protests should not be encouraged because those were things that Guyanese did against the Burnham Government. This man was not interested in the fact that the student rebellion was non-political and essentially centered on an incident at UG.

What is the relevance of this story to the sacking of the air-traffic controllers? When the PPP was in the opposition, it encouraged and participated in all forms of anti-governmental confrontations. The PPP nurtured anti-government violence on the sugar estates.

One must never forget that PPP activists murdered policemen at the climax of a series of picketing exercise over the imposition of toll gate fees for the Corentyne highway in the seventies. Arnold Rampersaud was charged for murder over that incident. It would be interesting for Guyanese to know what Rampersaud said about the attack on the toll stations thirty years after he was freed of murder charges.

Rampersaud is getting on in age and one suspects that given the quiet life he lives in Canada (he was granted refugee status), he may never tell us what he knows about what happened on that fateful night). This political party that fought against all kinds of injustices for the 28 years it was in opposition is now shamelessly dictatorial in putting down workers’ rights.

I have read a press release on the background to the strike by the air traffic controllers and the GPSU. Every aspect of these workers’ grievance has a legitimate basis. One hopes that the unprecedented valour shown by the sugar workers and air traffic controllers will be emulated in the weeks and months to come.

This is a country where fright, flight and fear, the dominant characteristics of the seventies, have been reborn. Voices are muted. Eyes scarily look around to see who is watching. Hearts are weak. Whispers silently bounce off the walls of shuttered corridors. These human frailties are what you find in dictatorships whether they are unelected or legitimately voted in.

Against this creeping nightmare the courage of sugar workers and the air traffic controllers are like scintillating poetry on a lovely summer night on the edge on a moonlit sea. These people are not afraid to confront an inhuman, insensitive, cruel and corrupt government.

Could the action by the air traffic controllers be the spark that we secretly prayed for and that found a comfortable resting place in our minds? Is it the spark that will make a billion flowers bloom and we will see the end of elected dictatorship just as we wished for the demise of unelected dictatorship in the seventies, eighties and nineties?

Where do we go from here? There is one definite lesson that has to be learned from the abrupt termination of the employment of the striking air traffic men.

If workers do not show solidarity with their aggrieved colleagues at this stage of a deteriorating polity, then that vacuum will give gargantuan encouragement to the mini-dictators to put down all strikes in the future.

How about this one though. Let us see what unfolds in the coming days now that they are back on the job with a promise by the President. Will they stick to their task? I hope so.


Here watch next time the President go on a trip and if his flight is suppose to return to Guyana at night - ATC should arrange for the airport to have total power and navigation failure, keep his flight circling until they must divert to an alternate airport, repeat this sequence every time he travels.

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