Last week the 27 year old Anthony Joshua dethroned 41 year old Wladimir Klitschko, the reigning world heavyweight boxing champion for the past 15 years. In the history of heavyweight boxing, Klitschko is one of the all-time greats. He would dominate a fight with sharp and powerful left jabs, keeping his opponent at bay, until he is able to land devastating right hooks or right crosses, sometimes in combinations, with lightning speed. Up until the fight, Joshua was merely a promising newcomer.
The fight began with Joshua taking away the offensive capability from Klitschko by himself utilizing the left jab repeatedly. Klitschko looked uncertain, retreating, his reflexes less than sharp, which were not good signs. The fight was close for much of the time, with Joshua falling to a right in the sixth round but weathering the storm. Thereafter it appeared that Klitschko was looking for an opportunity to land another right and gave up trying to win by scoring boxing points. This was a fatal mistake. It reduced his attention to his defence. The age difference showed and Klitschko’s stamina gave way. Starting with a vicious uppercut in the eleventh round through Klitschko’s open arms looking for that elusive right hook, rather than being in a defensive posture, Joshua delivered a flurry of punches from which Klitschko could not recover.
The announcement by the Government that the Wales Sugar Estate would be closed at the end of 2016 was the subject of a symposium at Moray House at Camp and Quamina Streets, the former home of the late David de Caires, the founding editor of Stabroek News. In opening the event, the Chair of Moray House Trust, Isabelle de Caires, noting the controversial nature of the issue and the passions it has generated in the midst of a general strike in the sugar industry, declared that it was not a political event but a debate with panelists and contributors being free to express whatever views they wished. Ms. de Caires pointed out that while some may wish to construe an organised public event on an important national issue as being politically motivated, silence could also be construed as a political statement.
The panelists were Jai Petam, who until a year ago served the sugar industry for 35 years, including in senior management positions generally and at Wales Estate over the past 18 years; Derrick Venture, of La Retraite/Stanleytown Cane Farmers Association for the past 35 years; Mark Khan, who has worked at Wales Estate for the past 30 years and is the plant foreman; Christopher Ram, accountant and lawyer and President of the Guyana Bar Association; Vicram Oditt, businessman and former Chair of the Board of Directors from 1993 to 2003. Guysuco declined participation but Mr. Tony Vieira, a member of the Board of Directors of Guysuco was present but in his personal capacity. And while the Government also did not participate, the Minister of Business, Mr. Dominic Gaskin, was present throughout the meeting. I am sure that these gestures were appreciated by members of the audience, including those from Wales. No doubt those who are passionately urging the Government to pause and reconsider are hoping that the Government is not only listening, but will also hear.
It is only after the magnitude of the potential disaster became apparent to the public that the Government began to scramble for a plan to protect workers of Wales Estate and farmers who supply cane. The closure of Wales Sugar Estate would impoverish the 1,700 workers and their families, cane farmers and their families and all others who are sustained by the existence of Wales Estate. The Government’s plan, announced in bits and pieces and later advertised in the media, is likely to fizzle as rapidly as it was hastily concocted. Offering some workers jobs at Uitvlugt and the vague notion of a waterway to transport farmers’ canes are not enough.
Unless serious and constructive ideas are put together and adopted, unemployment and poverty would devastate the Wales and Canal No. 2 communities and adversely affect the economy of Region 3. This impending disaster and its horrific social consequences could and should be averted.
The recent three-day general strike in the sugar industry, called by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), protesting the delay by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) in initiating wage talks, signals a return to militancy of Guyana’s largest and most influential trade union. GAWU’s history of militancy dates from the 1940s when, under anther name, it came under the influence of militants who later became leaders of the PPP. GAWU’s grueling, thirty-year struggle, for recognition, which followed an epic strike in two parts in 1977, defined it as a leader and symbol of working class struggle for justice, independence and democracy.
This militancy declined dramatically from 1992 onwards when the PPP/C was first elected to office. During the first half of PPP administrations, GAWU’s demands on behalf of sugar workers were treated with sympathy, even though the union may not have secured all that it asked for. The future of the industry and benefits for workers looked promising. The union’s militancy declined.
The struggle of the working class and the organised activity of the trade union movement have substantially determined the course of Guyana’s history. While Guyana was not unique, it led the way with the formation in 1922 by Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow of the BGLU (British Guiana Labour Union), the first trade union registered in the British Empire in 1922.
Several trade unions were formed subsequently, among them the TWU (Transport Workers Union). Registered in 1938, it had become by the mid 1940s one of the largest and most militant. The Teare Strike by the TWU in 1947 was called to protest the suspension of two workers for trade union activity. It lasted for two weeks, crippled the movement of people and goods in the country and succeeded in its objective of obtaining a commitment that the contract of Colonel Teare, who was the authoritarian British General Manager of the Transport and Harbours Department, would not be renewed after it expired, an unheard of concession at that time. This strike most likely energised sugar workers and the GIWU (Guyana Industrial Workers Union), the predecessor to GAWU, into renewed struggle the following year, leading to the tragic loss of life at Enmore by the Martyrs.