Budget Speech - Mr Lumumba—20143100 04 Apr, 2014
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I begin my contribution to the 2014 Budget by first extending thanks and congratulations to the Minister of Finance, the Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh and his staff. But before I continue I would like to say that I will always miss the Late Hon. Attorney at law Deborah Backer for her sterling contribution in this Parliament and her overall contribution as a woman to the development of her country. I also want to let her family know, in particular, her husband Mr. Steve Backer and her children that some of us will always still be around if any help is required.
I want to just quickly answer Rev. Morian. I am not clear if he is suggesting that the $1.5 billion to the Amerindians is inadequate or adequate and whether that is the official policy of the A Partnership of National Unity (APNU) to challenge the allocation of moneys to the indigenous People. I am not sure, but $1.5 billion is much better than the zero amounts that the People’s National Congress (PNC) provided to them in the past.
There is always great anticipation as to what I may say and how I may say it, but I believe this is a watershed year and my presentation must be unique and different. I believe this country is at the crossroads and many of our younger generations have not felt the pain that touch some of our people, like the Hon. Opposition Leader Brigadier (Ret`d) David Granger, Member of Parliament Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, Member of Parliament Moses Nagamootoo, Hon. Minister Clement Rohee, Hon. Minister Leslie Ramsammy and many others.
We felt pain because of the shattered dreams of this country from the wounds inflicted on us. Some of us have witnessed death at our doorsteps, some of us witnessed injuries, some of us were recipients of abusive language, death threats and all forms of verbal and mental abuse, but we are still standing today and, I believe, we are in this honourable House because we want to make a contribution and that contribution probably is of most importance today than any other day.
Therefore my short presentation is aimed at laying the foundation for what we should avoid and not allow ethnicity and economic genocide to be part of this budgetary discourse. What is very apparent for us is the Opposition, in particular APNU, and to a lesser extent AFC, has allowed race to creep into this debate without knowing it. Still I do not believe that the chambers of Congress Place would have encouraged this or develop a proposal that would suggest sustainability of one group against another.
I want to be very careful because I am going down a road that is covered with nails, broken bottles, and I do not want to be misunderstood. I want to be listened to very carefully. In essence, I want to pull this debate back and let us deal with the hard economic issues that can clearly make comparison as to where we were as a nation in 1992 and where we are in 2014 and just move this discourse forward without isolating any race, class or religious group.
In this debate we must be able to highlight universal positions. We are not gods; we all have successes and failures, and thus the focus of this debate, in particular my colleagues on this side, must be the successes of a nation in particular areas such as housing with the distribution of hundreds of house lots to our people and the development of dozens of housing schemes.
In addition, we can point to health and talk about the reduction of shortages of medical supplies, the hundreds of doctors that we have trained, the nurses that we have trained, the hospitals we have built. It is true that we must also address the issue of management and shortages. We can talk about the roads in all of our communities and improve potable water systems but we must also, through, Budget 2014, address the issues of communities that may have not been touched.
I can now move to sports and talk about dozens of sports facilities. We know that some villages lack adequate facilities but, remember, we are coming from zero in 1992. In every area we can point to development but the Opposition has decided to focus only on the negatives.
It has made Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) a bad word. Why not talk about the blatant inadequacies of the People’s National Congress (PNC). This debate has become a tale of two cities. We have to deal with bauxite, one city named Linden, predominantly Afro Guyanese based, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), the other city, GuySuCo, predominantly People’s Progressive Party (PPP) based. It is a tale I do not like and we need to pull back because both cities have been the catalyst for the development of Guyana.
Let us briefly talk about Region 10, Linden, the tale of one city. Let us briefly talk about bauxite between 1975 and 1992. During that period of time the Government of Guyana bailed out the bauxite industry by the amount of US$500 million. As a matter of fact, the industry had stopped paying for itself by 1976. There was an overdraft at Guyana National Cooperative Bank (GNCB) with a 30% compound interest rate and on three known occasions US$100 million had to be written off to supplement the industry. Mr. Deputy Speaker, bear in mind that Linden, as a predominantly Afro Guyanese community,... and the Burnham/Hoyte regimes had to recognise the political and economic consequences if they did not support Linden. Therefore the state treasury had to bail out the industry and the community as a whole. Electricity subsidies to Linden from 2004 to 2013 amounted to over $20 billion, Kwakwani amounted to over $2 billion.
We have spoken about bauxite. Let us now talk about sugar and GuySuCo, the tale of the other city. When we analyse GuySuCo we must approach the entity as a community and not as just sugar. GuySuCo, such as bauxite, represents, culture, communities, predominance of an ethnic group and a national historical framework. It is true that there have been missteps by the institution. It is also true that both GuySuCo and bauxite have had good solid periods. However, at the end of the day GuySuCo is a formidable and in many ways an independent entity with its own foundation. Here is what makes GuySuCo special and dynamic.
• 18,000 direct employees.
• 100,000 citizens and impacted by family ties.
• 30,000 citizens, indirect service, customers to the industry.
• Dozens of rice farmers who benefit from GuySuCo input by drainage and irrigations systems that are in proximity of the sugar estate.
• Community centres that are secondary homes for thousands of young people and including the development of the Kanhais, Joe Solomon, Moses Dwarka, Roy Fredericks and dozens of others.
• Community roads that had to be developed because of the facilities and infrastructure in support for the extensive system, thus direct benefits of villages and farmers.
• Maintenance of the drainage and irrigation system of the Neighbourhood Democratic Council’s (NDCs) in Regions 5, 6, 3 and 2 and many other areas.
• The dominant employment and economic growth equation of Skeldon, Albion, Blairmont, La Bonne Intention (LBI), Enmore, Rose Hall, Wales, Uitvlugt and dozens of secondary villages that are attached to this massive institution. Let us not forget the schools and other supportive industries.
Over the last 20 years, 1994 to 2013, sugar earned US$2.5 billion as a compared to bauxite, $1.7 billion in export earnings and in particular to bauxite 1,394 direct employees.
GuySuCo and bauxite represent the right and left arms of Guyana and neither must be the focus of the debate that allows perception of ethnic or economic discrimination. Any attempt to starve GuySuCo can be interpreted as ethnic cleansing - what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Leader of Opposition Brigadier (Ret’d) David Granger and his shadow Minister, the ex- Minister of gloom and doom, Member of Parliament Mr. Carl Greenidge, suggested that the survival subvention of GuySuCo represents waste. It is waste when it affects a particular race and business as usual when it comes to another. Those who take this stand can be judged as architects of ethnic and geographical discrimination. Let us not forget how Rwanda started, how Kosovo started, how Germany started, how Idi Amin and Uganda started, how South Sudan started Central African Republic started and the many others. It was a narrow analysis...
Leader of the Opposition [Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger]: On a Point of Order. Is the Hon. Member, who is speaking, describing me as being an architect of ethnic...
Mr. Lumumba: I never said so.
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: He mentioned me by name.
Mr. Lumumba: I particularly said that your words and your statements can be interpreted, not by me, but I said it can be interpreted. I also went on to state that in many countries where there were problems with ethnicity it was these simple statements that were misunderstood. As a matter of fact, in Rwanda it was a simple statement by a Catholic Priest.
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was mentioned by name. I would like to know which words I used that could be interpreted in the way... [Interruption]
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Hon. Member Mr. Lumumba, from my viewpoint, I believe that your statement could be imputing motives of race to the Hon. Leader of the Opposition. I would suggest that you withdraw that remark because you have actually juxtaposed his name to the words.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Hon. Leader of the Opposition has stated publicly that he is against the subvention of GuySuCo.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: You are saying that that is a racist statement. Mr. Lumumba, I am asking you to withdraw those words.
Mr. Lumumba: Withdraw what words?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The words in which you juxtaposed the name of the Hon. Leader of the Opposition and suggesting that what he said could result in racist consequences. I am saying that it is imputing... [Interruption]
Mr. Lumumba: I never said that.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Could you sit? Could you withdraw the words? The Member has objected and I am asking you to withdraw those remarks which impute race into him.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I cannot withdraw what I did not say.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Well Mr. Lumumba, you would not be able to continue your presentation. [Interruption]
Minister in the Ministry of Finance [Bishop Edghill]: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would sincerely ask that you deal with this matter with some objectivity. The Hon. Member Mr. Lumumba...
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Bishop Edghill, could you sit?
Bishop Edghill: I cannot be heard.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Are you disrespecting the Chair? You are suggesting that the Chair is not being objective.
Bishop Edghill: Mr. Deputy Speaker, all I was asking for... It is that the Hon. Member, Mr. Lumumba, in his earlier remarks, asked that we listened carefully because where he was going was on the road that has bottles and nails and he did not want to be misinterpreted. He asked that we do that. [Interruption]
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Hon. Members, Mr. Lumumba has stepped on the bottles and nails and I am asking that he withdraws the statement which imputes racist...
Bishop Edghill: Which statements?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The statements which mentioned the Leader of the Opposition and suggested that his statements were racist.
Ms. Teixeira: He did not say that... [Interruption] Mr. Deputy Speaker... [Interruption]...
Mr. Deputy Speaker: This is the final time that I am speaking on this matter. My ruling is that his statement imputes racist suggestions to the Leader of the Opposition and he must withdraw them. [Interruption]
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are not clear on what you want the Member to withdraw, therefore, could you allow the Member to read this section again so that you can hear? He has a written speech.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Read, what again?
Ms. Teixeira: If you do not trust that, I suggest that we pause, get the verbatim records, you can hear the audio and then you can rule, Sir.
You can suspend for a few minutes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and listen to the audio.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I put two propositions to you. I do not know if you are cogitating or whether your earlier ruling holds. Could you please guide us? I would like to suggest a suspension and let you check the records.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: It is all right. The Clerk has indicated something to me; I am awaiting his return.
Ms. Teixeira: Do we all wait here?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Yes. Do you wish to have a suspension of the session for that? That exercise could take about ten minutes, so we will suspend for ten minutes.
Sitting suspended at 7.21 p.m.
Sitting resumed at 7.39 p.m.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Hon. Member Mr. Odinga Lumumba.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: When we took the suspension, it was in relation to something you had said. Are you now ready to address the Assembly?
Mr. Lumumba: Yes, I am.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: You may feel free to do so.
Mr. Lumumba: First of all, I want the National Assembly to understand that my intention was in no way to call the Leader of the Opposition a racist or suggest that. What I said, and I will be very careful what I said, or what I meant to say,...
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I do not believe that you should repeat what you said. I think what you had said is enough.
Mr. Lumumba: You want me to move on.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Just move on.
Mr. Lumumba: It was narrow analyses that lead to the conflagration in those states. It was economic and ethnic disputes that got out of control. We must put an end to these gestures now.
I am saying that some of these pronouncements have similarities. For centuries these economic tactics have been used as economic tools and a weapon against political opposition, especially people of different race and different religions.
I am personally obliged to join my friend across the aisle to support the reorganisation of not only GuySuCo, but the way we do political business in Guyana. However, it is imperative to resolve the issues without setting the stage of one race favouritism while allowing another to flourish even when the economics say that all must be treated equally, especially with the payment of light bills, which must be paid equally by the people of Region 10 and those of Region 6.
This matter is complex. In the 1960s, the section of Afro Americans led by Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King Jr. challenged the racist system of America at that time. At that time a few blacks or coloured people were called Uncle Toms because some bowed to the racist system and in many ways accepted white oppression of blacks. Blacks, such as H. Rap Brown and H. P. Newton of the Black Panthers, called the coloured folks termites. We may find similarly here, in Guyana, that it could happen if a certain set of people are labelled as termites or Uncle Toms of Guyana.
In Guyana, many of my good friends on the other side are of political sound minds and revolutionary wise and pro equality. Let me use, for example, my honourable friend Moses Nagamootoo, a man who dare not and would not share the same ideological position on this issue of GuySuCo with APNU. While APNU, to me, seems to vent destruction against GuySuCo, an institution that feeds the predominantly Indo Guyanese of Region 6, Brother Moses and the AFC will be judged by their position if, for incorrect reasons, they show us any kind of similarity to the Roy Wilkins of the 1960s.
The AFC cannot provide milk and honey to Linden and Region 10 and coconut milk and hard bread to the people of Region 6, in the sugar belt.
I am asking that APNU removes itself from this destructive path. Imagine the difficulties faced when a country with just over 700, 000 people cannot find a common solution. APNU has already put fears in the hearts of a large section of the community by suggesting an amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill so that the police and GRA officers can seize $2 million cash or kind from the pockets of rice farmers, gold miners and storekeepers. APNU is politically tainted and biased on this issue of GuySuCo. These utterances by a few Members have already sent shivers down the backs of many Guyanese, especially those who have suffered...
Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon: I rise on a Point of Order. On the question of the correctness of the Member’s statement that we have driven fear into the hearts of people by seizing $2 million..., by suggesting that the police can do this. There is no such recommendation or amendment in the Special Select Committee on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill. It is not so.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I stand by my position that an APNU representative has suggested that in the Special Select Committee. They might have changed that, but I do not have such information.
Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon: But that is the position, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Attorney General and all of the other Members of the Special Select Committee are here and I am asking that the Hon. Member withdraws that statement please.
Mr. Lumumba: What I would change is that there was an original suggestion by the APNU representative.
Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon: You cannot be making it now. You are speaking now.
Mr. Lumumba: I am entitled to speak about the past. [Interruption] APNU is politically tainted and biased on the issue of GuySuCo. These utterances by APNU Members have sent shivers down the backs of many Guyanese, especially those who have suffered the PNC outrageous search, seize and destroy conduct in the 1970s and 1980s.
We have to deal with this solution in a sensible manner. I do not have all the answers but apartheid and economic ethnic cleansing cannot be the answer. We cannot preach total support for one group and zero support for another group.
In closing, I am in nowhere suggesting that things should not change at GuySuCo but the end results of this process must not be destructive for the hard-working citizens of Guyana, in particular the citizens of the sugar belt and the citizens that are predominantly Indians.
I urge unity and compromise on the way forward. [Applause]
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