As the Budget 2018 debate continues in the National Assembly, the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government will be hard pressed to defend its decision to send home thousands of sugar workers weeks before Christmas. Thousands of workers attached to the Skeldon factory and the East Demerara Estate (EDE) located in Enmore, East Coast Demerara have been issued termination letters by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). Not surprisingly the blame/unaware game has started. On Tuesday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon quickly pointed out that Cabinet was not aware of the decision to send home workers, and, as such, was taken by surprise when the decision was reported in the media. Minutes later, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder said it would make no sense to keep those estates in operation, and indicated that he is all supportive of the move to dismiss the workers, adding that Cabinet was not surprised. From these two most senior Government ministers’ responses, are Guyanese to believe that the APNU faction of Government is not aware of what the AFC section is doing? In colloquial language “left hand doesn’t know what right hand is doing?” Certainly, this smells of lack of communication and coordination within Cabinet. Guyanese has one coalition Government, not two sides of Government; but, disappointingly, it seems as if the reality is that there are two factions. However, as the Administration continues in confusion over who knew and who did not, thousands of workers have been left on the breadline. Just a few weeks ago, workers hung on to hope after the Government announced that the closure of the Rose Hall and Enmore estates would be pushed to sometime in 2018, but all hope was shattered over the past week when the workers received their redundancy letters. As a matter of fact, that hope had escalated when the Government itself had said that the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) which was established under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to manage the privatisation/divestment process of the GuySuCo is yet to carry out works at the Rose Hall Estate to determine the way forward with the factory. But according to letter that was leaked to the media, it was that very Special Purpose Unit that gave direct instructions to the sugar company to send the workers home. The correspondence read, “I write to inform you that after numerous and careful discussions among the SPU team, it was decided that extending the date for the transfer of the three estates, viz Skeldon, Rose Hall and East Demerara (Enmore) beyond 31st December, 2017 would not be practicable…the SPU team has decided that we would prefer to stick to the agreed date of 31st December, 2017. The extension of the date beyond 31st December, 2017 for the transfer of the three estates to the SPU would cause a lot of operational and financial issues and difficulties.” This begs the question of whether or not the SPU was given the authority to make independent decisions and give instructions that would directly affect the livelihood of thousands of Guyanese without having to inform Government. During presentation of the White Paper on the sugar industry back in May, the Agriculture Minister had said that even with major restructuring of the industry, GuySuCo is required to retain many of its workers for all operations on the merged estates, or factories; and those employees are to receive leased lands from the sugar company to engage in crops to be decided by both GuySuCo and the Ministry of Agriculture. Well, now that workers have been given the boot despite promises of being retained, we await to see if they would be given the land, as promised. 2017 will go down in our history books as a dark year for our sugar workers.