Ahead of today’s planned shutdown of Linden, to protest the lack of results from the landmark deal signed between the government and the Region 10 administration over a year ago, President Donald Ramotar yesterday said that his administration has been doing its best.
“We have been doing our best,” he said in a brief comment at a press conference yesterday, where he was asked about Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon’s complaints that none of the agreements signed between the region and the Ramotar administration to end a protest in 2012 have been honoured.
“…I don’t think his statements are totally correct,” the president said, before adding that he believed that the people of Linden have much better judgment than Solomon.
Ramotar said “it’s not a one-way street” and suggested that the regional administration has contributed to the delay. “We have agreed with their proposals about chairperson… but they have never yet agreed for someone on the electricity chairmanship,” he said, referring the composition of the committees that emerged out of the agreement.
The shutdown, as announced by Solomon this week, is being organised to express residents’ “disgust” over the situation. It is intended to coincide with a visit by Ramotar to open a new PPP regional office.
Solomon told Stabroek News that all of Linden’s important sectors, including the business sector, have signalled their commitment to the undertaking, and added that residents have been asked to come out in support. Solomon also said that he, along with the people of Linden, would be awaiting Ramotar’s arrival, upon which he will present the President with a letter.
However, on Thursday the Linden Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Development, came out against the shutdown. “After careful consideration of the limited information before us and short time to consult with our general membership, the Linden Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Development would not be able to endorse the “shutdown” of businesses in Linden,” the group said on Thursday in a press release, signed by the Chamber’s President Kevin De Jonge.
The release was issued immediately following an emergency meeting by the Chamber’s executive members in the Region Ten Business Centre, at Repub-lic Avenue, Mackenzie, Linden.
In July 2012, a protest by Lindeners against government’s proposal to raise electricity tariffs escalated after policemen responded with force and the ensuing confrontation left three men dead and others wounded. A residents-led blockade then ensued. By the time an agreement was struck between the government and regional officials to bring the unrest to an end, the area had been shutdown for weeks. Additionally, several buildings were torched and the cost of living in the region shot up as lanes to and from the capital city were blocked.
Coming out of the agreement were a number of committees, including the Technical Review Committee which was given the mandate to examine the issue of electricity rates. An Economic Committee and a Land Selection Committee were also agreed upon, and the government committed to allowing the region to have its own Television Station. However, 17 months and several disputes later, none of the agreements have come to fruition.
Since Solomon’s complaints, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry has urged the government to mount a formal probe into the situation.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Linden’s Interim Management Committee (IMC) Orrin Gordon said yesterday that while the IMC Members did not discuss the President’s proposed visit to the town, he can understand why there is a call for the town to be shutdown during the President’s visit.
“The majority of the populace suffers,” the Linden IMC Chairman said in a telephone conversation with Stabroek News. “There is a seething anger and people are talking about it.”
Gordon said the Linden IMC did not discuss the President’s proposed visit at its first statutory meeting for the year – on Wednesday – because the IMC Members were not privy to the proposed visit. According to him, the president visited Linden in 2012 for the Linden Expo and he asked the President a number of issues.
Among those issues were the Women of Worth (WOW) – a lending agency that was set up to assist vulnerable and disadvantaged women – and when the Linden Enterprise Network Inc. (LEN) Board would be installed. Gordon said that the President told him that the LEN Board would be installed shortly.
“I took his word for it,” Gordon said. “After all, he’s the President. But since 2012 to 2014, next week (Wednesday 29 January) the LEN Board will be installed, a few months short of two years – and still there is no WOW.”
He said it is an affront that President Ramotar could not find the time to visit Linden during the 2012 crisis after three people died, yet he is able to come and open a party office. Pointing out that the Linden to Kwakwani Road has deteriorated and several people have been hauled before the court because they protested against the deplorable state of the road, Gordon also stated that he and former Region Ten Chairman Mortimer Mingo had written to the President about the bad state of the Linden-Lethem Road but nothing has been done by the government to improve that road.
He said that he has no doubt that the PPP/C administration has a programme to keep the Linden community down because he cannot understand why the government turned down a 50 megawatt electricity generating plant that a Chinese company had intended to establish in Linden.
According to the Linden IMC Chairman, Linden would have used seven megawatts of electricity at peak periods and the Chinese company Bosai would have used seven, adding up to fourteen megawatts, leaving the other thirty- six to be sold to the national grid at one third the current cost of electricity.