The rejection of Prime Minister Sam Hinds by the workers from the GTUC May Day rally at Critchlow Labour College yesterday (May 1, 2008) was clearly the result of his disrespect for the participants at the rally and the venting of their anger over the Government refusal to address their many problems, including Government’s withdrawal of the annual subvention to the Critchlow Labour College over the past two years.

Consequently, it is necessary to correct the politicized version of events, peddled in the state media that resorted to the usual PPP “Blame Game” propaganda. This time the state media sought to link the Prime Minister’s rejection by the workers to the PNCR protest action against the dictatorial excesses of the Jagdeo regime.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds, currently the acting President, was an invited guest to the GTUC Rally and was seen at the commencement of the march meddling with workers at Parade Ground. He, however, choose to arrive at the GTUC rally almost at the end of the proceedings after all of the other speakers, with the exception of the representative of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, had completed their presentations and while the President of the GTUC was delivering the closing segment of her speech. Not only was the Prime Minister late, but when he arrived with sirens blazing, the GTUC President could not be heard and the flow of events was disrupted when the Police Band immediately broke into the tune of the National Anthem. The entire gathering stood in respect for the National Anthem.

The workers in the crowd were already motivated by earlier speeches. Those speeches emphasized their problems such as, spiraling food prices and the rising cost of living, the trampling of the bargaining rights of Unions by the Government, the reckless dismal of workers, discrimination in the promotion of public servants, the Government’s withdrawal of the subvention to the Critchlow Labour College and the failure of the Government to seriously address these problems. The President of the GTUC, during her address, had just reminded the workers of these problems including, the need to release Oliver Hinckson before CARIFESTA, when the sirens began to disrupt her presentation. Further, it appeared to the gathering that the Prime Minister was arriving from the direction of the National Park where the rival rally held by FITUG was being held. Workers obviously regarded this late arrival and disturbance as disrespect for the President of the GTUC and the workers of Guyana. It was therefore after the playing of the anthem that the workers began a unified and deafening chant for the Prime Minister to leave the proceedings. Efforts by the President of the GTUC to restore order failed as the workers made it clear that the Prime Minister had to leave first. After it was obvious to the Prime Minister that his presence was unwelcome, he eventually left the rally to the chants of “Out de Place”. At that stage, the proceedings became orderly and the President of the GTUC was able to conclude her presentation.

When it was learnt that the Prime Minister had been invited, many workers expressed the view that the Prime Minister and acting President would have arrived early like the Minister of Labour, Mansoor Nadir, and taken the opportunity to announce to the workers measures that Government proposed to implement to relieve the workers from their present burdens. The workers could only interpret the Prime Minister’s late arrival as indifference to their plight and an unwillingness to deal with the issues affecting them. Their reaction to these circumstances was therefore understandable. It is time that National leaders recognize that they are servants of the people and not vice-versa.

The PNCR believes that the Prime Minister, who is one of the most senior officials of the PPP/C Administration and an experienced politician, must know that his late arrival at an important event such as the GTUC May Day Rally would have provoked a reaction from the workers. He could have been advised on the mood of the workers before his arrival by his Cabinet colleague, Mr. Mansoor Nadir, Minister of Labour, who recognized the need to be on time. Nadir was present throughout the proceedings and despite some heckling by two or three persons was welcomed throughout the proceedings until he departed with Prime Minister Hinds.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana.
Friday, May 2, 2008