APNUAFC destruction of Black Cane Farmers of West Demerara

this is not a chronological assessment of the APNUAFC administration. I am highlighting a few areas in no specific order of importance. we began with The leadership of APNUAFC must resign immediately and followed with APNUAFC leadership thought the 2015 elections was a war

let’s talk about GUYSUCO and cane

most town people and sophisticated country people know little to nothing about sugar cane and how the industry works in Guyana. this is also true of the leadership and many rank and file members of APNUAFC

without getting into all the fineries. all cane grown in Guyana is sold to GUYSUCO which is a state owned entity. The farmers are paid on the amount of cane and also on the amount of sugar produced. we can get deeper into cane politics another time

my family has been engaged in the selling of cane to GUYSUCO from the inception of this program in 1964. The proper name of the entity back then would’ve been Bookers since Guyana was still two years away from independence. a program was started to get private farmers to plant cane and sell to the estate.

if you cross the harbour bridge and go left there are over 70 villages engaged in cane farming and selling cant to GUYSUCO. the first village is la grange, then comes bagotville where you turn into number one canal. There are about twenty five villages in the canal. All these villages are engaged in cane farming and there is a significant presence of Black cane farmers on the West Bank.

Understand when I say cane farmers I am not talking about cane cutters or as we call them now cane harvesters. I am talking about people who own the land and cultivate it for a living.

Continuing south along the West Demerara public road Bagotville, Nismes, Toevlugt to LaRetraite and Stanleytown. This is where the Jacobs family is from and the LaRetraite Stanleytown Cane Farmers Coop is the largest private cane farmers co-op in Guyana. It is also the only one I know of in all of Guyana that was certified fair trade by the European Union. We paid for that.

Almost all of these these villages have Afro Guyanese cane farmers. Inner Stanleytown (Number 2 Canal also have Afro Guyanese cane farmers. There are less villages in Number 2 Canal than Number 1 Canal but they are about the same length, 7 miles from the public road to the conservancy.

Then you head further south back along the Demerara river to Bellevue, Goed Intent, Sisters, Wales, Patentia, Vriesland, Vive la Force, Potosi and Free and Easy. Villages unknown to most Guyanese but populated by Afro Guyanese planting cane and other crops.

There is a misguided notion that cane farming in Guyana is an East Indian affair. This belief is not only held by Afro Guynese from town. Most Guyanese I would say are not familiar with the inner workings of the sugar industry and do not know the extent of Afro Guyanese families farming cane and rice at all levels for generations.

APNUAFC came to power promising to close off some of the estates and retool GUYSUCO. I did not have an issue with this as we made solid proposals to various agencies of government on how cane farmers, cane cutters and other able bodies individuals from our villages can easily transition to other forms of agriculture production using the land and irrigation system of the cane fields.

I had no problem closing down Wales Estate if it was not making money, but my voice was in the minority. Other cane farmers wanted the estate handed over to the coops and they felt they could make a go at it and bring it back to profitability.

Another thing you will never seen in the press. East Indian slash PPP affiliated farmers stole, plundered and looted Wales Estate. If they needed spares for their tractors they made a call and had someone would steal it from the estate. If they wanted fertilisers, limestone etc they all had their ways and means of plundering from the same estate they sold their canes to. There was also an active trade in stolen sugar and molasses. That’s another episode.

while I disagreed with the others we all had some basic things we explained to government officials that we needed: leases to the lands that were going to be divested, access to financing and duty free concessions on agriculture equipment and supplies.

many promises were made by various individuals in the government. The minister rolled out of bed one day and announced from his Regent Road office that he closing of the estate. Up to that point, I do not recall ever seeing Mr. Noel Holder anywhere on the West Bank meeting or talking to cane farmers.

This is a man who ascended to the Minister portfolio for simply being the husband of a dead founding member of the AFC.

if memory serves me correctly, within two days, Jagdeo and his PPP clowns were at the front gates of Wales Estate holding a massive rally. A week later AFC brass showed up to speak to the people. I dont recall seeing Holder, he may have been there but I dont recall seeing him. He announced he had a plan which would soon be released. To date, we have not seen this plan.

Since every village on the West Bank is engaged in cane farming, the economic effects were devastating. The Wales Saturday market which would last til the afternoon was closing up before noon. The spin off effects on businesses in the villages was immediate. It was also a huge psychological blow on the communities.

Noel Holder and friends told us we can pull our cane to Uitvlugt Estate. I wont waste time here on that except to say. A lot of Black owned farms were located in villages that were established to use the punt system of Wales estate to transport their cane. How were they to get this cane to Uitvlugt? Holder promised a road to Uitvlugt and we were left with a mud dam. The whole scheme was madness.

The part no one speaks about is the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS Afro Guyanese had invested in their farms. Tractor, trailers, ploughs, land preparation, fertiliser, chemicals, cane tops et cetera et cetera. A lot of fields were abandoned in frustration but loans still have to be paid back.

The final insult tossed in our faces by APNUAFC was the sharing out of the land and assets of Wales Estate while ignoring the cane farmers and harvesters who requested. we watched as big companies, businessmen from elsewhere and the politically connected gobbled up the land, machinery and real estate leaving us economically devastated. As faith would have it some of these businessmen are affiliated with the other side.

The sugar industry was already destroyed by the PPP and friends and was on life support but what Noel Holder and the bigger ones of APNUAFC did was rip everything apart with no plan on the way forward. The PPP had no plan then and have none now either but this is not a discussion about them.

Afro Guyanese cane farmers of West Demerara paid and continue to pay a steep price for APNUAFC willful ignorance.

APNUAFC leadership thought the 2015 elections was a war

As we get deeper into this discussion it should be clear that this is not a personal issue. We need to be practical in decision making and deal with reality. Escaping into fantasy and clutching at emotional straws wont solve the issues we face. There is much more to come on this issue but going forward, we need a younger, dynamic group of leaders to lead us out of this wilderness.
The leadership of APNUAFC must resign immediately

I open with the last paragraph from where we left off last time. There are many reasons which will become obvious if you continue to pay attention, why this discussion is public and open for all to see. Again let me stress that as we get deeper into this discussion it should be clear that this is not a personal issue. I’ve already been bombarded with angry messages from persons who are still emotionally charged and hurt from the fall of APNUAFC, and as I mentioned before it was a spectacular fall. But there were crack beginning to show in the facade since 2015.

This was missed by many as they were still caught up in the euphoria of removing the knee of the PPP banditos from our necks. We were breathing again, some for the very first time.

The fact there was an infusion of former military men and a few into the political fray, there was the usual baying from the PPP kennels that Guyana was now a military dictatorship and other silly noises. The criminal elements of the PPP who do most of the talking are in no position to speak on what is and isnt a military dictatorship.

Guyana’s much vaunted ‘Army’ is a military machine on paper. This is no slight against the Army as we like to call it, it has contributed a great deal to Guyana but what we have is not an Army. The official name is the Guyana Defence Force.

The military men who were part of the ruling coalition had the GDF in common, but no one can point to any military doctrine or fragments of any doctrine that guided the actions of these men. There was no common frame of reference that guided the coalition either militarily or politically. The leaders may have had this belief in their head, but I have searched far and wide to identify it and could not. And this is not to say the non military personnel had an opposing view or ideology. They were all shaped by the same system and fed off each other.

There were factions and factions within factions in the Coalition. Each pushing its own agenda which at times collided with each other. Some of these agendas were pursued with good intentions, and things were accomplished. However we are not here to itemise the highlights.

Others agendas had hussle and ineptitude written all over them. The pay raise comes to mind, which we will deal with as well in the future.
In short, while populated by former military, the Coalition lacked discipline. This lack of discipline was reflected in the confusion and chaos in which they went about tackling the major problems facing the country. Another demon plaguing the coalition is more psychological.

In order to come across as fair, a lot of Afro Guyanese are always preoccupied with what East Indians especially will say about their actions. This fear has induced a form of paralysis into many of these leaders and I doubt most would ever publicly acknowledge this. In private conversation they mention this without mentioning it. So doing anything for Afro Guyanese has to be thought of, studied, analysed, discussed, studied, dissected and scrutinised from all angles.

East Indians like Nagamootoo and Ramjattan are also paralysed to some degree by this. They were under constant assault in the most crude form, reminding them that they’ve sold out East Indians by joining up with ‘Blackman!’ Cause on the rare occasions when they go into the villages and mandirs they are attacked so they too walk a tight rope.

And here in lies the insanity of Guyana politics. Afro Guyanese were beaten down, discriminated, robbed, excluded and attacked for decades by racist policies, if any group needed some extra governmental assistance it would be this one. However, this fear drove the coalition to the point where Afro Guyanese communities, businesses and individuals were neglected and out of this fear the Ministry of Social Cohesion was born. (I have written extensively about this nonsense ministry, this from November 2016 social cohesion lunacy & the negroe quest for everlasting love in Guyana note the part where I said if they wont a second term)

The two biggest problems facing Guyana in 2015 and which still troubles it are; lack of standards and order. The two are intertwined and the first agenda of the Coalition should’ve been tacking this. You cannot build a society without standards and a disorderly population. The process of fixing some of these issues were tackled and some progress was made, but again without a guiding doctrine, things lacked coherency and in some cases soon fell apart.

In terms of standards, there is no sector in Guyana that operates at the basic industry minimum found internationally. This has come back to haunt the junior capitalists and husslers of the private sector commission and others. Their lawless and carefree approach to standards has been laid bare by the oil and gas sector. Many of the jobs and opportunities have gone to foreigners with most of them playing minor roles behind the scenes under the guise of local content. For years they they lived by the mantra we doan need all dem tings in Guyana and there was no forward planning. Why is the University of Guyana now fighting up with an oil and gas program when you signed contracts with Exxon since 1999?

As elections 2015 drew nearer there were many senior persons in the APNUAFC camp who were still not convinced that electoral victory was possible. They were getting closer and controlled Parliament, but in the back of many minds, doubts were still there as to whether victory was possible.

In the last days of the Ramotar misadministration, senior men in APNUAFC were in frantic negotiation with the current head of state, who was a leading PPP bagman, and others to cut deals as we were headed to elections. I among other Afro Guyanese were approached to write ‘projects’ as the government was ‘sharing out money to Black people.’ This was a crude attempt to buy us off with crumbs.

I found this whole scheme questionable and suspect since the man who was going to be doing the sharing of the money was an APNUAFC member of Parliament. If you know anything about Guyana politics you know that opposition members have no budget to share out anything. I dont know if anyone got money from the scheme. I was asking so many questions the messenger grew frustrated with me  and went on about his merry way back to his bosses.

APNUAFC marched into the elections with much pomp and bravado. The rallies were mega concerts. The supporters felt their time had come and the leaders were eager to at least present the image that they too believed so. Everyone shouted It is time, even the ones who didnt believe it. The crescendo of these rallies was when an APNUAFC man took the microphone and belted out Jail them! or something about jobs and opportunities.

What we were witnessing was APNUAFC marching to elections with the idea firmly planted in their head that this was a war. But nothing could be further from the truth. Elections 2015 was simply a skirmish in the war against the crime and lawlessness of the PPP.

Having won this skirmish, the leaders assumed the war in their head was over. This confusion may have been the earliest cracks to appear in the facade. Having won their war, APNUAFC leadership made fatal another mistake, they went on a social cohesion offensive. In many ministries and agencies, enemy combatants were left in positions of power and influence. With a wink and waving of the finger, APNUAFC announced to the nation, we have been victorious in battle, everyone behave and we will live happily after.

After a few months passed and the enemy forces realise no lash to head was coming for their sins, they jumped out of their foxholes and began to undermine the government from the inside.

Persons who questioned the new social cohesion agenda were soon labelled enemies and many, yours truly included, were harassed, investigated and tossed aside. We made the fatal mistake of offending those chosen by God. Afterall, Moses did part the red sea and David slew Goliath.

We cant cover every error they made, but we can look at some broad themes which all combined led to their eventual downfall.

The confusion of wars and skirmishes led to another fatal miscalculation. APNUAFC leaders were operating as if political power lasted forever (we’ll touch on this concept a bit more later as it was common for them to remind you that big things were in store come second term).

Given the wretched nature of the PPP, they should have won a few elections easily by simply serving the people, but they soon went off track and some started to serve themselves and ignore the people in a most obscene fashion. Some were fast becoming mirroring the ones we despised.

As we await the appointments to Parliament, the leaders leaders of APNUAFC have three options: resign, be overthrown or be ignored going forward. A few will go but many will try to hang on. Whether internally there’s enough fight in the young cadre to overthrow their leaders time will tell. The the third options has already attracted a sizable following as former supporters look to the future with fear and apprehension wondering and dreaming about what could’ve been.