Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS) — Jean Wilson Nisbett worked on the sugar estates for 20 years, starting out in the cane field at the tender age of 15. She worked hard in the blazing sun and sweltering heat, breaking her back in order to support her children. It was the only life she knew at a time when sugar was king but dying a slow death. When the sugar industry closed in 2005, she had hoped to receive a “little something” for the two decades that she had spent going from cane field to cane field. But, much to her dismay, she was offered nothing. It was a terrible blow for a woman who had worked most of her life in sugar but after that had to “suck salt”. It was enough to send her into deep depression, but she held out hope that one day she would be rewarded for her laborious work before she died.
That day came under a Team Unity Administration when former sugar workers who were denied compensation in 2005 – 2006 upon the closure of the sugar industry started receiving their cheques on the eve of the 32nd Anniversary of St. Kitts and Nevis on September 18th.
“I worked hard with my big belly,” Mrs. Nisbett said after receiving her cheques. “I worked the Wednesday and that same Wednesday when I finished work, my child was born.”
With a glowing face, Mrs. Nisbett said “I am thankful because I worked hard in the cane field; very hard…I cut cane like a man.”
Chamdra, on the other hand, migrated to St. Kitts from Guyana in search of a more prosperous life. Like many Guyanese who had worked on the sugar plantations, Chamdra was happy to get a job so that he could send money to his family back in Guyana. He worked for five years in the sugar industry. He now lives in St. Kitts and has citizenship.
“I feel great,” he said with his cheques in his hand. “The government thinks about us. Thanks to the Government and thanks to the Prime Minister.”
Miss Green, who kept repeating herself, couldn’t contain her joy. She wanted to share the good news that after so long she finally received her recompense.
“I am satisfied with what I got,” said Miss Green. “I worked from Molineux to Mansion for over 20 years. Thank God for life.”
“I cut cane; I dropped soda; I even got my hand broken from digging grass,” she said.
The stories of so many former sugar workers are similar to that of Mrs. Nisbett, Chamdra and Miss Green. As the former workers continue to receive their cheques, the stories of what was considered a curse fade into the background while the stories of blessings under a Government of National Unity emerge.
The compensation to former sugar workers was made possible by an EC$ 16 million dollar donation from the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela under the PetroCaribe agreement.