The reprehensible manner in which the government is rushing amendments to the Sugar Industry Act through Parliament, smacks of totalitarianism and makes a total mockery of the parliamentary process.
“This is just another authoritarian act. It will likely signal the last nail in the coffin of the sugar industry,” warned National Farmers Union General Secretary Mahendra Chaudhry.
“It will completely marginalize and disenfranchise growers,” Mr Chaudhry said.
A Bill to amend the Sugar Industry Act to be debated in parliament tomorrow proposes drastic changes to the Sugar Cane Growers Council in order to facilitate changes to the Sugar Master Award currently being sought by FSC and the Sugar Ministry.
One, the Bill was thrust on Parliament this morning without warning, even though it was not on the Order Paper for the day.
Secondly, it is being proposed arbitrarily by the government without any consultation with the growers or their representatives. It completely ignores the consultative machinery set up under the Sugar Industry Act and simply continues with the authoritarian manner in which the sugar industry has been run for the past 8 years.
Thirdly, Government is allowing just one hour for debate on a Bill that will have far reaching consequences for the cane growers.
There has been no public debate on the proposals. The Bill is not available to the growers for scrutiny. A check with Parliament showed they did not have enough hardcopies available for distribution. And the Bill will not be available on the parliamentary website until later in the week, by which time it will already have been debated in the House.
The Bill proposes a new board of the SCGC comprising the Commissioner Western and the Commissioner Northern and representatives from the three Cane Producers’ Association.
The Cane Producers Associations are not the legitimate representatives of the growers. They were specifically set up after 2010 when the elected growers’ councilors were removed by the regime.
“NFU calls on the government to withdraw the Bill and carry out proper consultations with the growers unions on the changes being proposed. We put government on notice that such arbitrary imposition on the growers will not be tolerated,” Mr Chaudhry said.