The GAWU’s attention was drawn to the contribution of Opposition Chief Whip, Mr. Christopher Jones to the 2021 Budget Debate. Mr Jones, during his address to the National Assembly, launched, in our view, a jaundiced and, we daresay, vitriol attack on the sugar industry and by extension the thousands of Guyanese whose lives and livelihoods are supported by the industry.
In his remarks, the Opposition Chief Whip labelled the sugar industry as the bloodsuckers that live on the backs of the Guyanese taxpayers. From all appearances, Mr Jones’ sordid view extends to Guyanese in the sugar belt. Our Union finds the remarks by such a senior member of the political opposition as disturbing and equally disconcerting. It, in our view, is a vivid demonstration of the level of contempt that Mr Jones holds for sugar workers and whose contribution he clearly undervalues and seemingly despises. It seems the Opposition’s Chief Whip is either unaware or chooses to ignore that the sugar industry for its travails continues to make several tangible contributions to the nation. He seems to forget, conveniently, that the sugar workers themselves are taxpayers and do not get any ‘free rides’ as he apparently seeks to promote in his message which took on, from our point of a view, a clearly divisive and partisan character. The utterances of Mr Jones, we hold, are a continuation of the mercilessness the sugar industry was shown during the Coalition’s term in office.
But Mr Jones’ tirade, as it were, did not stop there. He went on later in his contribution to proclaim that the sugar industry should be buried. Whether this was a deliberate or inadvertent slip of the tongue is unknown but his remarks sent a clear message that should clear the minds of any of those who held any doubt. That is had the Coalition succeeded in a second term, the sugar industry, in the words of Mr Jones, would have been buried. The Opposition’s Chief Whip outburst is not surprising but yet again confirms the contemptuous view that the wider Opposition holds for the sugar industry despite utterances to the contrary. This has been pointed out in the past and we are sure we will see such derisive talk in the future as well.
We recognise the denunciation of the sugar industry was seemingly intended to stir up feelings of disenchantment among a certain section of the Opposition support base though completely ignoring Opposition supporters in the sugar industry. So while Mr Jones was playing for the obvious gallery by his remarks, in our view, he has undermined his credentials as a national leader. In fact, if you ask us, he has demonstrated that he is not a leader for all but just some. It goes on to question his place in the nation’s highest forum which imbues all to inspire national not prejudiced interests. In as much as we understand that the Opposition may express disagreement, we believe, Mr Jones’ attack, as we see it, crossed the proverbial line. He has insulted and embarrassed a significant contingent of Guyanese who have committed no wrong to deserve such a verbal lynching. Indeed, we believe Mr Jones should do what is honourable and offer an apology. At the same time, we will not hold our breath to expect any modicum of responsibility and decency from the Opposition Chief Whip.