Restoration of the Annual Subvention/Grant to the Critchlow Labour College2273 27 Feb, 2014
Mr. Nagamootoo: Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to speak to this motion because I thought it was a rather straightforward and noncontroversial motion but after I heard the last speaker... [Mr. Ali: You went into labour.] Yes, indeed, literally, I went almost into labour trying to produce some sense from the non... excuse me, from what the Hon. Member has said because I could not, for one moment, imagine that someone who has come from the bowels of anti-labour could in fact espouse any type of sentiment favourable towards labour or in sympathy with the children of labour.
Our Constitution, both the 1980 Constitution and the reform to the Constitution that was introduced in 2003, had, I believe quite rightly so, a very equitable architecture towards the children of our country and it enshrines in the Constitution that the welfare of the child shall be the foremost consideration of our people, bound by the Constitution to think that way and, in particular, it defines a role for labour in the Constitution; that labour is the originator and producer of the wealth of the nation. Therefore, when we speak to anything that has to do labour we must speak with respect and solemnity because the struggle of this country, the struggle for the real liberation of Guyana had been ignited by labour, by barefooted people. I say this, young Mr. Trevor Williams, the Hon. Member, and Leader of the Youth For Change, would not have been cognisant of the antecedence that had led to the division of Guyana into polarised ethnic and political camps.
He would not have been even born when labour went into travail and produced a division into what has now become the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). He would not have known that at some stage the education of children of labour would have been held hostage to that division but he spoke from his heart that there is an opportunity and he would have read the Constitution that says that education for all is a primary duty of the nation, not only in formal but non-formal institutions.
The Critchlow Labour Collage is one of those non-formal institutions and under the Constitution, therefore, the Government is bound by equitable consideration as the father, as the mother of the nation to treat with entreaties and please for assistance from a non-institutionalised or non-formal institution. I am in complete sympathy with the argument advanced by the Hon. Minister Dr. Nanda Kishore Gopaul and I am sure, if my honourable Friend and colleague, the Hon. Mr. Komal Chand were to speak to this motion he would have also given a history of the lamentation of why labour suffered a setback in Guyana and he would have also said that the efforts for the unification of labour is an unfulfilled task. It is necessary for Guyana.
I have read where critics of the Obama Administration in the United States of America, though they worked in the Labour Movement and the feminist and gender organisations and the black and Hispanic communities and coloured communities assiduously for the election of Barrack Obama as the President of the United States of America it is also with deep regret that I have read repeatedly that some of the spokesmen of the very sponsors of Obama said that labour went into pause at the election of President Obama. The struggles of the working class had been blunted because of sympathies for the leader they thought would have preferred the agenda of the working people but we have that criticism that also could be laid justly in Guyana.
Those on the other side – and I was on that other side – had their genesis in labour and struggled, not to allow an anti-labour advocate to speak on behalf of labour. We have struggled for the empowerment of genuine representative of the working people.
We saw the damage that has been done to this country when the working class struggle went into pause and that we could not advance the agenda of the working people so much so that what we have today in this country, the endemic corruption and runway mismanagement, could have only been held in check if we had a unified and strong labour movement. I am in sympathy that there was the withdrawal of subvention for the Critchlow Labour College and it was because there was, in 2007... [Mr. Neendkumar: You voted for it.] I did not have the privilege of being in those seats so I can tell you that I heard the argument and I was in sympathy with the argument, that so long as the Critchlow Labour College does not have genuine representative from all sections of the working people, from the labour movement, then it was untenable that the Government could have given the subvention without having that insurance that it was done in a way that will promote the best interest of the entire labour movement.
I am in sympathy with the argument that the labour movement could not survive, as it claims to survive, without the participation of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) representing the single largest block of union members in Guyana. I could not have ever understood what impetus drove those who claim to represent labour to exclude GAWU from the leadership of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC). I could have never countenance that. I also know that when the Public Service Ministry, Government, if I may say so, was taken to court by the Public Service Union, the court had ruled - correct me if I am wrong Minister - that the Critchlow Labour College ought to have been given an opportunity to correct some of its accountability problems as soon as it could and that the Public Service Ministry ought to have insisted - as we heard just now that some reports were submitted - that the order of the court had been carried out in order to ensure that the subvention would be restored or floated back to the Critchlow Labour College.
We cannot penalise the students of the Critchlow Labour College for administrative faults. We could not make them the victim of our own inertia to act even upon a motion. I knew at one time that... As much as we did not understand and could not countenance a division of labour, we felt that the Critchlow Labour College was in fact an institution that could be reformed to educate children of the working people in working class subjects to do precisely what we have been taught, in some other schools, that we must struggle to learn and we must learn to struggle.
Struggle is not a virtue that is attributed to us from birth. It is a Leninist, my good friend has said - “a Leninist exhortation.” [Dr. Ramsaran: Why do you not say so?] I did not come from the school of Moscow, my friend. I have never gone. I read widely so I can tell you only of the court. We all learn from the same school of thought and from others that politics is the concentrate of economics. It is the economic struggle that is waged by trade unions that should become sharper if we want to move our struggle and our society forward.
Therefore, labour must be incubated in an educated way. Our own Constitution speaks to the role of labour. The Constitution of this Republic provides avenues, not for what my learned friend has been talking about, the back room entry into the University of Guyana. We know that several persons had back room entry into the University of Guyana. Many of them could not have even write their own papers and had to depend on others to write their academic papers. We know that there were many people who hungered for university education and going to the Critchlow Labour College they could have gone on their own if they were adults 26 years and older to the University of Guyana without academic qualifications that we had to struggle to get, O’ levels and A’ levels, in order to get into the doors of the university. Others got through the back door of age and others through the back door of others institutions. Critchlow Labour College could have been one of those but that may not have been the primary objective and it had been abused – the curriculum – to allow only opportunistic entry into the university.
We are to ensure that measures are put in place to reverse that, and that it must become an institution of labour. It is not to condemn it to death, not to hang it by strangulation that takes away financial oxygen. Even if, as I said, there might have been sympathy when that subvention was withheld, the Minister of Education then, the Hon. Sheik Baksh, I believe, had taken an approach that said that once it had rectified its accountability issues then there would have been a restoration of the subvention. I remember the Hon. Member, then, Mr. Henry Jeffery was a very strong advocate for the restoration of the subsidies because he knew that the political division in the labour movement can be dealt in a different way without having to allow a collateral damage, which is the right of student to a labour education.
For example, my friend was saying that I had taken some position, which I am not aware of, but assuming, not accepting that what he said is true, I am prepared to reverse any position I had taken with regard to the Critchlow Labour College and to say that the subvention should be restored. It is the right thing to do. It is the enlightened thing to do. Take most of us here, the genesis of our own political enlightenment came from institutions such as Accra Bay College and from the Cuffy Ideological Institute, perhaps Kuru Kuru Cooperative College as well, apart from those who had gone elsewhere. I am saying that so important had been the imperative for labour education that the institution, which I had gone to, the Accra Bay College, had as courses collective bargaining and history of the trade union movement. Those are courses that we need to inculcate in our young people if we want to create a nexus between us, who we are today, and our own history of struggle and the gains that came out of the labour struggle.
I am, irreversibly so, a labour advocate and I have gained my spur in the trenches of labour undeniably so and I ask this evening that we set aside the petty politics of trying to strangle an institution because we felt that we must wait until there is unification of the labour movement.
I want to say this, that yes the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) to and Trades Union Congress (TUC) should reunite in the interest of the Guyanese people. It should reunite at a time when great challenges face the working people of Guyana. That is an imperative that is foisted on the TUC and the FITUG, that they have to work towards that. While they work towards their unity they would ensure, as well, that the TUC, once reunited, should have equitable representation in keeping with the number of members in each trade union movement. That is a democratic right, a doctrine of proportionality.
That is a right and if they came together and they were able to put equal numbers on the board of the Critchlow Labour College, as is requested by the Hon. Member who last spoke, if that is done then we can see that the syllabus of Critchlow Labour College could be changed to include genuine labour subjects, genuine issues that will concern the working people and to incubate our future fighters and future leaders in a genuine school of labour. We can see all of that happen, but if the institution dies prematurely or if it dies... It is now almost stranded for its last breath. If it is not allowed to live then none of this will happen.
I ask this Government, I ask those who have the last remnants of labour conscientiousness in their soul, I plead with the General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in particular, that they should allow this motion to be supported with a proviso that we are prepared to amend and that is that there should be equitable participation in a future board but if that were the content of the motion that we would ask that the Government not only support the motion but that it should restore the subvention.
I say finally that it is not a matter of the quantum of the money. I am told it is $32 million for an entire year that Critchlow Labour College is asking for. [Mr. Jaffarally: That is a lot of money.] My good friend, at the back, from Berbice, is saying that that is a lot of money. Yet, it is a lot of money, that is what a former President will get in pension and benefits when monetised for a year. That is what we are asking for. What the former President will get for one year we are asking for less than that to be given to an institution to be able to spread labour education, labour knowledge and labour consciousness and so long as we are here on this side we would ask that you do not look at this in monetary terms. Look at what it would mean for the promotion of a labour consciousness and the true labour leader of this country in the future.
Thank you. [Applause]
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