Jul 05, 2016 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon

frddie2The letter pages of the Kaieteur News and Stabroek News are not for the faint-hearted. Those pages are an opera of mind-piercing tragedies that call into question the viability of this nation. The ubiquitous misery of this country can be found in those pages and in every instance, the hopeless, helpless victim is a poor person, mostly a father that has left a family behind and that family disintegrates into the nihilistic wild and barren wilderness of a land named Guyana
One of the Kaieteur News’ journalists, Romila Boodram showed me a hand-written letter about the plight of a sixty-one-year-old father. My immediate reaction was to ask Romila to type it so it can be published. It was published in the KN. It is a sad story. After eighteen years of service, illness befell this man; he was laid off and there was no compensation.
For those who read the letter pages of the newspaper, this is just another correspondence of the misery of the poor. The cynical mind will point to hundreds of letters like that. The victims are simply destroyed and so are their families
This columnist knows of at least ten male heads of the household who died on the job; in some instances a pittance was given. In other circumstances, nothing was offered. In these ten cases, all the employers were family-owned type of business, four of which are families that actually possess billions, (not hundreds of millions but billions) of dollars. In all of the ten cases I know, each man had a wife and children.
In all the ten examples cited here, the eldest child of one of the dead men was fourteen. All the other children were below the age of thirteen.
Do the people of this country know that an employee lost all four limbs on the job, and I think the case for employer’s compensation is still in court? This man may never live to collect a cent because such types of litigation normally take about fifteen years to conclude. Incidentally, do you know the Jagdeo libel writ against me and this newspaper which begun in 2011 is nowhere on the horizon of conclusion.
I think the court is waiting on either Jagdeo, the owner of Kaieteur News or me to die before it can resume.
I know about a poor employee who drowned in the Abary Creek while performing his tasks and his family got a pittance from one of the wealthiest families in this country. There are seven disadvantages the surviving families face. First, in many instances these horrible family-owned companies would tell the wife they are not paying and she can take the matter to court. This becomes an impossibility because legal fees are a deterrent.
Secondly, Guyana does not have the kind of lawyers that would undertake a pro-bono case for these families. Thirdly, the legal aid clinic does not take on these kinds of litigation. Fourthly, assuming that they get a humane lawyer or legal aid comes to their rescue, the hearing will not conclude before fifteen years.
When waiting for those fifteen years to pass by, the family has to get money to survive. How do they live? Fifthly, there is no governmental agency that could be bothered with these crippled families. The Labour Department from Independence right up to July 2016 is a pathetic waste of time.
Sixthly, Guyana does not have a functioning Human Rights Commission. The human rights body, Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is nothing but a broken down car that has outlived its purpose. Finally, the political parties in opposition or government will not be moved to act because they have always been in the pocket of these rich family owned businesses.
It is a public secret that these families patronize these political outfits even outside of the campaign season. Anyone following the acidic quarrel between former President Donald Ramotar and the super-rich man, Brian Tiwarie will clearly see how governments will be paralyzed to act against their benefactors if an employer dies on the job.
This columnist has had several complaints of industrial violations against Tiwarie. I wish both Tiwarie and Ramotar can just disappear and spare the Guyanese people the poison they are spitting out at each other. My opinion is that this country can do without these two men. This is a depraved land where the rich can do whatever they want to their employees even kill them (I know of two such cases) and they will not even get a telephone call from the police or relevant Ministry. Guyana is requiem for the dead.