GAWU detects campaign to discredit its status and image

Two (2) Guyana Times articles dated September 01 and 02, 2012 constitute, in GAWU’s view, an effort to besmirch the image and undermine the effectiveness of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), an institution in the labour movement of this country. Moreover, they also sought to denigrate Komal Chand, long standing member and President of the Union.

GAWU is perplexed at the article of September 01, sprinkled with falsehood, and coming right after its highly successful 20th Congress.

It should be noted that GAWU and several of its leaders, in the recent past, have had to confront both subtle and overt challenges to the Union by certain political parties and rival union groupings especially amongst its sugar sector membership. Against that background, GAWU sees the slanted and biased Guyana Times reportage as yet another aspect of the assault on the Union and thus, the members who constitute the Union.

What is indeed baffling is just who could so easily use the pages of the Guyana Times to launch such an assault on the Union, using as weapons, obviously manufactured data as they have no truthful basis. The Union urges that “the hidden hand” at the Guyana Times comes forward. 

The genesis of the issue lies in the (Saturday) September 01, 2012 issue of the Guyana Times which carried a headlined story captioned “Support for Chand dwindles at GAWU – places 30th in 52-member general council set up.” Besides being factually inaccurate the article casts various aspersions on Chand’s character and professional integrity as a Union leader. A second-paragraph sentence, for example asserts that “Chand, a People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament has been at the helm of GAWU for well over a decade now, and has presided over the virtual decline of the sugar industry, orchestrated by almost weekly strikes and other industrial unrest.”

GAWU challenges this bit of opinion-oriented writing by pointing out that the Union, does not manage the nation’s sugar industry. The Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) is the entity which sets policy and executes the day-to-day management of the industry. GAWU, on many occasions, has had caused to acknowledge that the Corporation is beset by a plethora of problems both from internal and external sources. GAWU, however, maintains that as both a responsible and patriotic union which has to preserve its members Constitutional right to strike when industrial action is appropriate to influence employers’ attitudes to their workers’ welfare.

In attempting to portray Chand’s alleged “dwindling support” the Saturday article states that “Komal Chand said he plans to run again for the office despite placing 30th among 52 officials elected recently at the Union’s Congress to sit on the General Council.” This is so-far from the truth about Chand’s ranking in the elections.

It begs the question as to who is the real author of such malicious mis-information. The female reporter who spoke with the GAWU leader on (Saturday) September 01, 2012 following the article’s publication, has already disclaimed authorship of that specific portion.

It should be noted and emphasized that the Congress’ election procedure itself nails the lie contained in the Saturday piece of the Guyana Times. In actuality, there was no election for any 53 members of the General Council at the just-concluded GAWU Congress. The fact is and the record will show that forty-seven (47) candidates vied for twenty-six (26) places on the 53-member General Council as twenty-seven (27) are usually elected before Congress at Branch Conferences. This is in keeping with the Union’s Constitution and is a guarantee of a representative General Council reflective of all our constituents. Komal Chand then could not have placed “30th among (any) 52 officials”, when only 26 elected members were required of Congress elections. The Guyana Times Saturday piece can, therefore, only be considered as mischievous and wicked and damaging to Chand. A promise to correct these falsities in the (Sunday) September 02, 2012 story captioned “Guysuco needs EU funds more now than ever before – Chand”, did not materalise adding to the Union’s belief that some “hidden hand” and pen has an outright agenda to discredit and undermine GAWU and its President.

The Union whilst strongly condemning the outright lies, as outlined above, and from which biased opinions are given intends to pursue the matter at other levels as well as seek legal advice. It’s one thing to claim the right to an independent opinion, it’s quite another to propagate out and out falsehood.

It is hoped that the return of democracy, including freedom of expression, in which the GAWU played a key role will not be jeopardized, in the future, by low levels of journalism.

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