Bharrat Jagdeo’s incumbency as General Secretary of the PPP and Opposition Leader makes him the most authoritative figure within the PPP. The ease with which he swatted away the dominant influence of Donald Ramotar, Clement Rohee and Komal Chand in serious decision-making within the upper reaches of the PPP after the loss of the 2015 elections, testifies to his now enduring control of the direction of the PPP, last manifested when he secured the nomination of Donald Ramotar as the presidential candidate in 2011.
Komal Chand had always been a vocal and independent minded leader within the PPP. This was derived more from his inclinations than from the power base he held as General Secretary of GAWU. The need for restructuring of the sugar industry arose at around the time of Mr. Jagdeo’s accession to office in 1999. Mr. Chand’s positions in debate, particularly in relation to the sugar industry, became more pointed and vocal as time went on, especially during the 2006 to 2011 period when serious problems began to surface. But the problems which have been emerging in the sugar industry and the length of time for which Mr. Chand has held leadership office in GAWU – since about 1985 – have weakened his grip. Thus, he lost his position as a member of the executive committee of the PPP after the 2016 congress of the PPP. Composition of this body is determined by a select few a day or two before the vote and a sufficient number of members of the central committee, which elects the executive committee, are given the word as to who to support. Mr. Chand’s orchestrated loss would have told him that his time in the leadership of the PPP and GAWU was drawing to an end.
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 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.
I should like to thank you for your invitation to deliver opening remarks to this the Third Conference of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana. This acknowledgement from you that I may have something of interest or value to say to the trade union movement, is indeed a great honour.
Among the material I consulted when preparing my remarks, is the speech of Brother Ashton Chase to the first Conference of FITUG in 2006. It is a most enlightening document, reverberating with history. A portion of the speech traces the formation and suspension of FITUG between 1988 and 1993, and its re-establishment in 2003. This history demonstrates that FITUG’s birth and growth were inevitable outcomes of the underlying interplay of politics, workers’ struggles and trade unionism, that have characterised our history as well that of many other Caribbean countries.