Electricity protests still boiling in Guyana
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday July 30, 2012 – The standoff between the Guyana government and the villagers of Linden continues to gain momentum despite government putting off its proposed hike in the tariff for electricity.
Now, ordinary citizens and even the church are standing by the protestors in the volatile mining community, long regarded as a primary gateway to the hinterland and farther afield in South America.
According to media reports, congregants at a church service donated a large quantity of money to assist in the struggle for their demands.
After Pastor Selwyn Sills called on the congregation to make donations, there was a sudden surge of congregants to a bag where they offered as little as GUY$20 to their cause. Even an armed uniformed soldier went forward and made a donation, stated the Demerara Waves.
The heightened atmosphere has reached a point where a planned visited by President Donald Ramotar on the weekend had to be put off amidst safety concerns.
The electricity tariff protests started out peacefully on July 18, but escalated into unrest, leaving three persons dead and several others seriously injured, in addition to the destruction of several buildings by fire.
Reports on the chaos state that Lindeners continue to burn tyres and are blocking the Amelia's Ward road; scores of protestors also formed a human barricade across the road, and began singing hymns. Among those reportedly on the frontline were women and children.
The Joint Services called into service a frontend loader to clear the rubble used to blockade the roads. The Government Information Agency (GINA) also reported that the Joint Services Heads at the scene of the impasse apprised the President of their several failed attempts at controlling protesters who obstructed the Kara Kara access bridge to Linden.
The Office of the President, in a release issued on the weekend, said the postponement of the president’s planned visit was deeply regretted, particularly by those stakeholders who had already assembled at Watooka House for the public meeting and consultations with the President and his delegation.
The President’s announced visit yesterday, GINA said, was expected to advance talks with the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) and regional stakeholders representing the religious, business, labour, women’s and youth organisations.
According to GINA reports neighbouring communities in other parts of Regions 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice), 7 (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) and 8 (Potaro-Siparuni) that inevitably depend on the road passing through Linden to get in and out are experiencing dislocation as a result of the protest and concerns are building up as the days go by.
The blockading of major arteries in the area has disrupted life in the communities, leading to loss for businesses and threatening the provision of critical social and utility services such as health, water and electricity, reports state.
The protests have also led to significant economic fallout as food and transport costs for Lindeners and interior communities beyond have become significantly inflated, according to President Ramotar in his address to the nation on the issue.
The situation also caused the bauxite company operated by Bosai to close its doors, and has significantly affected Toucan Connections, a call-centre in Linden which employs almost 150 persons.
President Ramotar has since ordered a Commission of Inquiry to examine the circumstances that led to the loss of lives, and agreed with the opposition to draft the Terms of Reference for the constitution of the Commission to be concluded not later than August 2.
The government has also offered to put on hold the July 1 deadline by which the electricity tariff hike was scheduled to take effect in Linden, and has moved to establish a technical team comprising members from both sides to review options to the tariff system.
This review would include all available and practical options and the attendant implications, financial and otherwise, according to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon.