President Donald Ramotar (R) and Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn inspecting the destroyed section of the Linmine Secretariat in Linden
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar visited Linden on Thursday and met face-to-face with residents for talks, having been satisfied that the town has returned to normalcy a few days after the Joint Services cleared the thoroughfares from blockades planted by protestors in opposition to the new electricity tariff imposition.
Accompanied by a small entourage that included public works minister Robeson Benn, presidential adviser on governance Gail Teixeira and community development adviser Odinga Lumumba, the president met stakeholders before moving out to the community.
He saw sections of the Linmine Secretariat that was in ruins, while stopping off at the Wismar/MacKenzie Bridge that some protestors attempted to destroy at the height of the protest action that started on July 18.
Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc (BCGI) was among the main operations in the town that was forced to close its doors and in a statement said some 20,000 mt RASC production in the past month and deliveries postponed for the rest of this year as a result of the unrest.
“We have received correspondences from some major customers that they will be forced to plan to use alternative materials due to the delay from Guyana,” the company said in the statement.
The company’s general manager George Zhao accompanied Ramotar on a tour of the site and the recently installed dust collector while on Thursday’s visit. He also met and held talks with Lindeners employed at Bosai.
In all sections of the town, residents who were eagerly awaiting the visit of the President sought answers about the new electricity tariff hike, consultation with the opposition and the economic state of Linden.
Residents of the One Mile area waited in their numbers, some with placards, seeking answers about the commission of inquiry into the death of the three protestors, the demands advanced for more television stations in Linden and the work of the technical committee set up to review the new tariff structure.
Ramotar expressed remorse on his personal behalf and on behalf of the government for the shooting incidents, even as an emotional Dion Warrick demanded justice and bemoaned the fact that the head of state’s visit could not have been much earlier.
The visit was scheduled for July 28 but had to be postponed after protestors defied orders by the Joint Services for calm and efforts to clear the thoroughfare of logs, and other objects used as blockades.
“I made an attempt to come to Linden on July 28 and that was used as an occasion to mobilise and rile people up, block and set fires on the road and, I thought that I didn’t want my visit to be used as an occasion to have anyone getting hurt and for those who seem to have taken over the protest, to use it in a negative way,” Ramotar said.
Even as the president was in the town there were some failed attempts to derail the visit by a few factions who stood some way off.
Chairman of Region Ten Sharma Solomon is among the key stakeholders leading talks with the government at the Office of the President and he rejected the invitation by Ramotar for stakeholders from the community to sit in as observers to the dialogue.
Stan Smith from the Linden Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), who said he was labelled a “snitch” for meeting Ramotar on behalf of the Chamber, believes that there is mischief afoot in the leadership of the region and, maintains the view that stakeholders have a vested interest in the dialogue process and should not be left out.
“The time has come for dialogue to take place between the government and the region so that we can bring this whole thing to a close… the business community has a stake in this town,” Smith said.
The president’s team explained the rationale for the progressive adjustment to the electricity tariff, maintaining the argument that subsidising electricity tariff in Linden is unsustainable in a town that is rapidly developing.
Reference was even made to former President Forbes Burnham who, at the fifth anniversary of the nationalisation of the bauxite industry, had announced plans to amalgamate the Linden grid with the rest of Guyana.
The rising price of fuel and, growth in Linden and the wanton wastage of electricity that was evident in the town that was paying electricity at subsidised cost far cheaper than the rest of the country were also pointed out.
“Because the charge was so small, there was no incentive for conservation and actually you will see that the average consumption of electricity in the community compared to the rest of the country is about three times as much per household, so if we had conservation methods being used, we can cut down on the amount of electricity that is actually consumed,” Ramotar said.
The residents are still taken aback by the unfortunate development over recent weeks in the town, which is now gradually returning to normalcy under the watchful eye of the heavily numbered and armed security forces.
Ramotar in an interview with the press said he was satisfied with the restoration efforts and, expressed the hope that the situation will “get better as the days go by.”
Prior to the unrest the government at the start of this year was optimistic that that the outlook of Linden was bright with Bosai advancing plans for production and expansion, the Toucan Call Centre in Linden up and running and Bai Shan Lin had plans to set up a large wood processing facility a few miles from Linden.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in a recent television interview predicted that it may take a decade before Linden can rebuild and recover the status it once held as a terminus for Guyana’s interior and hinterland regions.