The role of the PUC must not be side-stepped in the Linden electricity discussion
Response is made to Prime Minister Sam Hinds’ letter in SN of June 24, captioned ‘Electricity reform is the last step in the transformation of Linden from company town to a regular Guyanese town.’ The PM’s reference to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and its role must not be deliberately side-stepped in the Linden electricity discussion since inherent in this matter is the transgression of the rights of the citizens. Every request by the GPL for an increase in tariff is first subject to public hearings by the PUC, where stakeholders/consumers are allowed to make their case. In the Linden instance no such hearing and consultation have been conducted, which is a violation of the rights of Lindeners.
The public was advised that the discussion on Linden’s electricity was part of the tripartite talks. If there exists a tripartite configuration the principle for engagement has to be consistent, ie, all three parliamentary groups (PPP/C, APNU and AFC) must at all times be involved, participate and agree to the issues before implementation. In this case the AFC was excluded, while the APNU claims there was never an agreement. In the absence of an agreement by all three political groups, which have a responsibility to ensure that the impacted community is involved in the agreement, the PPP’s action to go ahead with an increase is vindictive and discriminatory. It is encouraging to learn of the AFC and APNU’s stand on the Linden issue within recent days. The APNU is put on notice to give leadership to the opposition’s engagement with the executive today, June 26, by ensuring the AFC is part of the discussion and the re-opening of the Linden matter is placed highest on the agenda.
The PM’s argument to increase the Linden rate to bring it on par with GPL cannot be justified, since the operation in Linden suffers from an approximate 20 per cent line loss and GPL suffers in excess of 30 per cent. In fact, the people in Georgetown and other parts of the coastland are paying for Mr Hinds and the GPL’s inefficiencies and incompetence. It is also clear this issue is not about subsidies since billions are given to subsidise GPL, GuySuCo and other institutions.
This issue is about the continuous attack on the economic well-being of Lindeners, and now attempting to justify the withdrawing of a subsidy with a pseudo claim of unifying Linden with the coastland, after the government ignored the calls by the people to safeguard the workers’ sweat equity (deferred wages/salaries) and gave away the company and its electricity supply. Mr Hinds and the PPP must understand that if GuySuCo is too big to fail, the people of Linden and Region 10 are too important to be destroyed.
Further, the PM’s statement of wanting to “transform… Linden from a company town to a regular Guyanese town” is a public relations gimmick. For he is aware that lights in Linden are being cut off for non-payment of $1200.00. And this is simply because people do not have the means to pay because many have no avenue for employment to earn. Linden experiences an approximate unemployment rate of 70 per cent. For the PPP to be aware of these factors yet still want to proceed with the imposition of a higher tariff which the people cannot afford, is to literally put systems in place to turn the lights off in Linden. This vindictive act must be repelled.
Note is taken of Stabroek News’ apology to the PM for truncating his statement (June 24). The PM informs us that his exact statement is: “I am saying, the people in Guyana whether in Linden or other parts of Guyana have to manage the best way they can manage and I am further saying that I don’t think we have a significant difference in people situation in Linden taken as a whole and in the rest of Guyana taken as a whole.” Reviewing the verbatim statement against the truncated one that they “have to manage the best way they can manage,” doesn’t change a thing. The press conference was called to deal with the Linden electricity issue! But since the PM sought to ‘clarify’ what he said, his statement is equally damnable.
This is an inhumane and callous statement coming from an elected representative whose job it is to serve and protect the people’s interest, and he is being paid by the people to so do. Persons are reminded that this is the position of a man who since the mid-1960s to now has never paid a cent for the kilowatts he burns. And as a past president, should the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act of 2009 remain the same, when he retires the taxpayers will pay his bill for the rest of his life. As someone who continues to burden the taxpayers to pay his bill along with theirs, he has never been given the opportunity of one ‘who feels it knows it.’
The PM is not serious about soliciting the media’s support to address consumption and behavioural change in Linden. He is playing to the public gallery to drive a wedge among consumers of Linden electricity and GPL. Were he serious he would have engaged the residents, examined the Linden Utilities Services Co-op Society’s (LUSCSL) Electricity Reform Proposal which includes said elements, and partner with the people in their efforts at helping themselves. This is what the people have been demanding, but they continue to be met with rejection by the PPP.
Given the above, it becomes even more important to ensure the people’s right to be heard is respected.