By Mandy Thompson
Around 50 persons yesterday protested in front of the Office of the President (OP) to express solidarity with Lindeners over a hike in the cost of electricity, which organisers said was evidence of a divide and rule strategy by government.
The protest, organised by Red Thread and the WPA, also saw calls for President Donald Ramotar to address the issue and make the playing field for electricity billing level.
Just after 11:30am, a group of protesters, who included Opposition Leader David Granger, WPA Executive David Hinds and Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green, gathered in front of OP holding placards with various slogans that reflected their disappointment at the treatment of Linden. In particular, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds—who has responsibility for the electricity sector—was singled out by some of the protesters, who carried placards bearing writings such as “Sam Hinds is a sell out”, “Out of that small small money u want pensioners pay more for light”, and “Shame PM Sam Hinds.”
Red Thread member Karen De Souza told Stabroek News yesterday at the protest that the recent electricity hike in Linden is a divide and rule move by the government. She said, “we cannot buy into the argument that electricity should be raised in Linden because the unemployment and cost of living is high.” She also stated that persons on the coast have never protested before about the huge amounts they pay for electricity. She added that government’s effecting the hike in electricity costs in Linden, which she described as “patch work,” should not be the case. Instead, she said, government should focus on reducing the electricity bill of persons on the coast, who are paying for the inefficiency of the Guyana Power and Light Company (GPL). This, she said, will make the playing field level.
De Souza further noted that the free electricity that ministers of government benefit from represents a situation of injustice in the country. More demonstrators arrived as the protest went on, including Granger, who stated that the main opposition APNU is in solidarity with the people of Linden. He stated “we are calling on the central government to halt any move to the imposition of increased tariffs and the president to sit down with the regional administration to seek a solution that is acceptable with the people of the region.”
He further called for government to introduce a sensible economic strategy for the entire country, while saying that GPL is badly managed and that this has resulted in the increased price of electricity.
Granger also noted that despite the high cost of living faced by persons countrywide and unemployment, the case of Linden is a special one. He stated that the town’s historical contribution to the country and the high level of unemployment faced by residents are reasons why the electricity hike should not be implemented and a different approach should be found.
Meanwhile, Green said he was protesting in solidarity with the people of Linden, who are being punished. “What the government ought to do is prepare a proper development package for the people of Linden,” he added.
Also, David Hinds voiced his support for the protest actions taken by residents in Linden. He said, “we urge people out there not to pay any light bill but stay on the streets because they have a right to stay on the streets and we are continuing to support them.”
The recent electricity hike in Linden has spawned a number of protests by Lindeners and non-governmental organisations over the past few weeks. Residents blocked the entrance of the Bosai bauxite plant in Linden as part of their ongoing protests against the hike. Leaders in Linden also applied for permission to stage another protest next Wednesday, which they say will see a total shutdown of the town.