As Trade Unions across Guyana came together for joint Labour Day celebrations on Monday, observed in an atmosphere of unity, the Government and Opposition jarred on the state of the economy and plans for development.
Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira and Natural Resources Minister Rapahel Trotman went head to head as both sides called for unity among the trade union movement.
Ms. Teixeira said many of the progress achieved by the working class over the years was now at stake of being reversed under the APNU+AFC coalition government.
She said the gains are threatened by economic and political circumstances which are a matter of concern to Guyanese across the country.
Against the government’s message of hope and gratitude, Teixeira’s claimed that workers were apprehensive and uncertain of the country’s future, and said the quality of life is deteriorating and there is a refusal on the part of the administration to address the “failing economy”, where all the productive sectors were declining. “This deteriorating economy has resulted in a devaluation of our currency and reduced imports,” she added.
Ms. Teixeira also criticized the government over its move to close several sugar estates and said that it would be foolhardy to expect that the potential proceeds from oil could sustain the economy.
But her statements were not only met with rejection by government supporters at the National Park rally, but also by a strong rebuff coming from government Ministers.
Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman took the podium after Teixeira and declared “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics”, while urging workers to ensure that they do not fall prey to half-truths and lies.
“Don’t be fooled by what you are told, know the truth and stand firm,” Trotman, added.
Mr. Trotman deviated from his written speech to shut down Teixeira’s criticism of the government.
He said that the APNU+AFC government is faced with some hard decisions which must be made.
“You can’t treat a failing organ with a panadol or an aspirin… the same way the previous government shut down fields and move bauxite into privatization, we have some hard decisions to make.”
Mr. Trotman said the government remains caring and sensitive to the struggles of the working class and called on the unions and political parties to work together.
“Government is not oblivious to the struggles or is uncaring. We must sit together and agree together and my question to you the working people today is; Are you prepared for more struggle as we prepare for a green state and oil? I ask for patience and engagement,” Trotman added.
He also rejected Teixeira’s claims that there were limited jobs for Guyanese in the oil and gas sector. Hundreds of workers from various unions gathered at the National Park for the united rally.