Agriculture Minister avoids question on broken promises

first_imgWales conversion plans?Some two years ago, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder made several announcements about wide-ranging diversification plans for the Wales Sugar Estate, signalling that many workers from that entity could be retained under the new venture.Former Wales Estate worker Alex Paul SinghHowever, the initiatives never materialised – so much so that land that was to be converted into rice cultivation has been overtaken by weeds and bushes.On Monday, the Agriculture Minister was questioned by Guyana Times on the status of the conversion plans, but he declined to provide an update on the basis that management of the sugar industry was transferred to the Finance Ministry. The Minister similarly avoided responding to the assertion that he broke promises to sugar workers and to the public concerning the plans for diversification announced in 2016.“How can I offer a comment when it’s not under my purview? It would be wrong,” Minister Holder told this publication on Monday.Agriculture Minister Noel HolderLast Wednesday, the Minister pointed out that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was no longer under the Agriculture Ministry. He made these comments around the time that dismissed workers from Wales were protesting in front of the Ministry, calling for his removal.“GuySuCo is vested in National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).  NICIL falls under the Ministry of Finance. In short, GuySuCo has been removed from the ambit of agriculture to the Ministry of Finance,” Minister Holder had stated.However, it is not clear whether or not the Minister’s disclosure of GuySuCo coming under NICIL was ever legally stipulated, as it was the closed estates that were transferred under the State-owned company. The January 7, 2018 edition of this newspaper published that the divested estates were transferred to NICIL as guided by the Public Corporations Act, Chapter 19:05. The estates included Skeldon, East Demerara and Wales. There was no mention that GuySuCo in its entirety was ever transferred to NICIL.In February 2017, the Minister told the National Assembly that the Wales Sugar Factory would be converted into a business establishment that would see the rearing of poultry and livestock. Prior to that, Minister Holder had announced in May 2016 that Government was examining the feasibility of converting the factory into plants that would have processed dairy products and fruit juices, among other products.A section of the land overgrown with weeds and bushes at Vriesland, West Bank Demerara (Shemuel Fanfair file photo)Meanwhile, as Government-recruited international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers continues to evaluate GuySuCo’s assets for privatisation and divestment, former Wales workers are asking when they will receive their severance pay. Guyana Times understands that even some of the workers who were transferred to Uitvlugt want termination benefits from their years of service at Wales. This newspaper was told that many opted against receiving severance, because they were under the impression that they would continue working at Wales under the diversification plans, namely rice cultivation.Former Wales worker Alex Paul Singh told Guyana Times that during 2017 he worked on the rice field in the backdam, but he stressed that this was not his field of work as he was a “bull man”, that is a worker who pulls punts along the estate canals.“Me ah bull man and me wuk come redundant and as such, me like to get severance,” Singh stressed, claiming that his colleagues in that department have not received their termination benefits.Speaking in December 2016, GuySuCo Finance Director and now acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Paul Bhim had told reporters that some 100 of the 1000 Wales dismissed workers were identified for the rice conversion plans, including husbandry practices. This came in light of the promises by GuySuCo that it intended to convert some 485 acres of land at Wales Estate to rice cultivation.It was during a visit to Wales earlier this month that Guyana Times was shown sections of the land that were being overtaken by weeds. Workers who live in Vriesland, West Bank Demerara had expressed much dismay that, to date, no rice has been reaped.last_img

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