Caribbean news. Budget debates in the National Assembly came to a halt on Friday, after it was alleged that Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment Odinga Lumumba imputed racist remarks, implicating Opposition Leader David Granger.

Lumumba, who was making his contribution to the National Budget Debate on Friday, drew a nexus between the Opposition’s unwillingness to support the $6 billion grant for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and racial discrimination.

He told the House “Any attempt to starve GuySuCo could be interpreted as ethnic cleansing.”

Lumumba also stated that Granger and the “Ex-minister of loom and doom MP Carl Greenidge”, had said that any subvention to the ailing sugar industry was a waste of much needed cash.

“It is waste when it affects a particular race, but business as usual when it comes to another. Mr Speaker, those who take this stand can be judged as architects of ethnic and geographical discrimination,” he added.

Granger on hearing the remarks, sprang to his feet in objection. He asked the Deputy Speaker Basil Williams, who was presiding at the time, whether MP Lumumba was describing him as an “architect of ethnic discrimination”.

Refusal

“I never said that, I never said that,” Lumumba responded almost immediately with his usually thunderous, but hoarse voice. Williams had instructed him to withdraw the statement, but he objected.

“Withdraw what? Withdraw what words?” Lumumba asked.

At this time, Minister within the Finance Ministry, Bishop Juan Edghill reminded the Opposition that Lumumba had warned the House that he was “going down a road covered with nails and broken bottles”.

PPP/C MP Odinga Lumumba making his contribution to the budget debates on Friday

PPP/C MP Odinga Lumumba making his contribution to the budget debates on Friday

Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira also came to the defence of her colleague.

And a decision was subsequently made for the House to take a five-minute break to have the matter resolved. Upon return, Lumumba said: “First of all, I want the National Assembly to understand my intention was in no way to call the Opposition leader a racist or suggest that.”

The Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment earlier in his presentation told the House that Guyana was at the cross roads, but the younger generation has not endured the pains felt by members on both sides of the House, pointing out Granger, APNU’s Dr Rupert Roopnaraine,  AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee and Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.

“We felt pain because of the shattered dreams of this country from the wound inflicted on us, some of us witnessed deaths at our door steps, some of us witnessed injuries, and some of us were recipients of abusive language, death threats and all forms of verbal and mental abuse,” Lumumba said.

According to him, APNU and to a lesser extent the Alliance For Change (AFC) have allowed race to creep into the 2014 Budget Debate without even knowing.

“I don’t believe that the chamber of Congress Place would encourage this or develop a proposal that would suggest sustainability of one group… against another,” he said.

But before hitting the hammer on the nail, he warned the House that he was going down a road that was covered with nails and broken bottles. “I don’t want to be misunderstood,” he cautioned the Opposition.

Comparison

According to the Presidential Advisor, he was going to deal with hard economic issues, drawing a comparison as to the status of the nation in 1992, to its current status.

He told the Speaker that the 2014 Budget Debate has become a tale of two cities. “We have to deal with bauxite, one city Linden, predominantly Afro-Guyanese-based and the other city GuySuCo, predominantly PPP-base. Mr Speaker, it is a tale I do not like.”

Going back in history, Lumumba pointed out the period of 1975 to 1992 when the then Government was bailing out the sugar industry at the cost of US$500 million. According to him, Linden has a predominantly Afro-Guyanese community, the Burnham/Hoyte regime had to recognise that there was going to be economic consequence if they did not support the bauxite industry and by extension Linden.

Still on Linden, but turning his attention to the provision of electricity, the PPP/C MP pointed out that the current administration from 2004-2013 has spent more than $20 billion, subsidising the cost of electricity in Linden and $2 billion in Kwakwani, Region 10.

On the other side of the coin, he said GuySuCo must not be seen simply as sugar, but a community which represents culture, communities and an ethnic group. An industry which has a direct workforce of 18,000 people, 30,000 indirect workers and 100,000 families that depend on the industry and thousands of rice farmers who benefit tremendously from the drainage network established.  “Over the last 20 years, 1994 to 2013, sugar earned US$2.5 billion compared to Bauxite US$1.7 billion in export earning and in particular, bauxite has 1394 direct employees, he said.

Article courtesy http://www.guyanatimesgy.com/