Lack of movement on Linden committees disappointing

-Roopnaraine

APNU MP Dr Rupert Roopnaraine says he finds it “extremely disappointing” that 16 months after a deal was signed between the government and Region 10 following five weeks of unrest on electricity tariffs, none of the three committees established has  yielded any results.

Along with the three committees—economic, technical and  land selection—there was also an agreement to have a Linden television station on the air and it was promised that Channel 13, which was gifted to the township by Green Construction, would have been returned. The television station is still not operational

Rupert Roopnaraine
Rupert Roopnaraine

as it has not been licensed. In recent weeks the government has not said anything on the progress of these committees.

Roopnaraine, who play-ed a part in hammering out the deal at the Office of the President following pro-tests in the mining town in July 2012 which claimed three lives, said he also finds it “astonishing” that the technical committee, which has to do with the electricity tariff in Linden, has not worked. He said he understands why the administration would want to stall on the economic and land selection committees but not the technical committee. Since that committee’s work had to do with exploring whether the electricity tariff could be increased, as is the government’s wish, he felt the government would have had more interest in moving it forward.

In fact, he said he is “surprised that more energy” has not been put into ensuring that the technical committee works.

However, former PNCR parliamentarian Aubrey Norton, who also played a part  in negotiating the terms of the deal, said he is not surprised that the technical committee has not been working. He said the work of that committee would have brought to the fore, information that the administration prefers to remain hidden.

He noted that while the government wanted to increase the electricity tariff this goes hand in hand with the complete development of the mining town. He believes a study by the technical team would have brought out information such as the level of discrimination and unemployment in the mining town which would have forced the government to act. Instead of having such information brought to the fore the government decided to continue with the electricity subsidy and this, according to Norton, shows that the administration has no intention of developing Region 10.

The technical committee was headed by Narvon Persaud but he resigned in October 2012 and while the committee would have completed some work it cannot continue until the government and the region agree on a replacement chairman. The region’s choice is Region Ten Interim Management Com-mittee Councillor (IMC) Charles Sampson, while the government wants Chairman of the Energy and Power Committee Clinton Williams.

That  committee is tasked with reviewing the existing provision and consumption of electricity in Linden, including the history, the costs, the tariff structure, and the subsidies; considering arrangements to provide electricity to the Linden community and the tariffs to sustain such arrangements within a sustainable time frame; examining Region 10′s economic circumstances inclusive of the affordability of the increased cost; looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the integration of the supply of electricity in the Linden area into the national grid; and, making recommendations on cost saving measures and options for alternative energy, including the facilitation of conservation education and conservation.

 

‘A lot of work’

Aubrey Norton
Aubrey Norton

Meanwhile, Roopnaraine on Sunday told this newspaper that a lot of work went into the establishment of the committees and in coming up with the terms of reference and appointments, adding that funding for the committees was approved and as such it is a “great disappointment” that 16 months down the line there is little or no result.

“…There were skeptics that the committees would not go anywhere but I chose not to go with that and was hopeful something would transpire,” Roopnaraine said.

But he said what has happened since only confirmed skepticism and the sense  people have that it was all a ruse on the part of the administration to ensure that Linden returned to normalcy.

He said initially he attempted to follow up to ascertain what was not happening and why, but admitted that more recently he has not been as attentive.

Roopnaraine said he was not clear on what should be done to reconfigure the entire process. He suggested that perhaps there needs to be the coming together of the principals to do an audit.

Asked if the entire process could be viewed as having failed, Roopnaraine said that if nothing else it would have led to “more learning” but in terms of it easing some of the grave concerns of the Linden community it would have been a failure.

Norton said government has a history of not implementing agreements and so there was always suspicion as regards its intentions.

He said the issue with the television station was the first evidence that the government was not bargaining in good faith as it did not keep its promise to return Channel 13 but instead spoke about giving another channel to which the region said no. He said the second indication was when the government said that it could not go through with the process because of legal matters engaging the courts.

The region’s officials say they have all the equipment and financing required to get the region’s TV station going and that government is unduly stalling the licensing process.

Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon last week told this newspaper that Presidential Advisor on Empowerment Odinga Lumumba had informed that the licensing process will be difficult to pursue further until the court matter challenging former president Bharrat Jagdeo’s November 2011 decision to issue radio licences to twelve persons/companies is concluded.

Last year, the Guyana Media Proprietors Associa-tion, Kaieteur News owner Glen Lall and Capitol News owner Enrico Woolford, instituted legal proceedings against the government for what they saw as the prejudiced distribution of licences. They challenged the relevant authorities to show just cause for the distribution of licences to a select few persons/entities, while withholding same from others who had applied years ago.

However, Solomon said the TV station’s Company Secretary Roysdale Forde has argued that the matter before the court has no bearing on the broadcasting licence process, and therefore should not be stalling it. These sentiments were expressed to the government when the two sides met on November 29, 2013.

The broadcasting facility will soon be at operating capacity, Solomon said, and added that the region has submitted all the documentation that has been required of it under the new broadcasting legislation.

Norton said the government needs to recognise that in future people would not want to negotiate with it as it makes agreements not to honour them but to buy time to defuse protests.

He pointed out that the people of Linden would have noted the attitude of the government and eventually the people would make their decision based on the bad experience they would have had with the administration.

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