Linden begins `shutdown’ over proposed tariff hike, large crowd protests

Lindeners in large numbers are today showing solidarity with the movement against the proposed increase of electricity tariffs for the mining town as announced by Minister of Finance Ashni Singh during the reading of the 2012 National Budget.

The government’s position on the increase was further solidified by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds during his presentation on the budget speech and this gave rise to residents of the community taking to the streets in protest.

Today is considered a “shutdown” day, another stage of residents’ protest action against the proposed tariff hikes. A drive through the town this morning revealed full support for this call. With the exception of the Linden Hospital there is not a single entity open. The six ferry services which ply the two shores of the Demerara River are all out of operation. No round-the-town transportation or Linden to Georgetown buses or taxis is working.

Empty Linden bus park
Empty Linden bus park

There is a heavy police presence traversing the two shores and pockets of persons were seen at strategic locations with placards. At some businesses a few workers were seen dressed in uniform but were prevented from entering their place of work since the gates and doors are all locked.

Schools were affected by the shutdown as teachers didn’t show up and just a few students were at school. A number of students were seen returning home.

At the break of day residents on the Wismar shore converged at the Linden Utility Services Co-op Society Limited (LUSCSL) and marched to the Winifred Gaskin Highway Junction at the Silvertown area.

Another large group which moved from the One Mile area joined them, forming a sea of residents who peacefully marched across the Mackenzie-Wismar bridge where there was a heavy police presence guarding the passage.

“We peaceful we ain’t ready fuh block bridge. We going through sending a message.” said one protestor to police officers.

PPP/C supporter Denis Muhammed (in black) walking alongside former Regional Chairman Mortimer Mingo today.
PPP/C supporter Denis Muhammed (in black) walking alongside former Regional Chairman Mortimer Mingo today.

The conversation among the protestors along the way varied. One vendor said that the situation in Linden is unique to the rest of Guyana. He said that for many years resources from Linden fed the rest of Guyana especially in the area of electricity. “Is God that got we standing, look dis dust we inhaling, look how deh OMAI and deh others come and pull out we resources and lef we and this government just keep failing to stand up for us now they giving we a second dose of deh gift.”

Another said that despite which region votes for a party once placed in government, “you are the servant of the people all deh people and what deh doing is obvious to spite we and it ain’t gon happen…”

“NCN must go, Increase in electricity bill drive us deeper in poverty, Create employment bring back LEAF to give real small business loan, Stop the punishment of the Linden people” were some of the slogans carried on placards.

The protest was supported by residents from across Region 10, Ituni and Kwakwani included. Several busloads of residents joined in.

Region 10 Chairman Kuice Sharma Solomon addressing the protesters today
Region 10 Chairman Kuice Sharma Solomon addressing the protesters today
Protestors on the Wismar-Mackenzie bridge
Protestors on the Wismar-Mackenzie bridge

The crowd grew larger at the Mackenzie Five Corner where they were joined by another large group of residents from Mackenzie. The protest moved through independence Avenue into Purple Heart Street, then onto Republic Avenue and assembled at the Mackenzie Bus Park at the Market Square where they were addressed by regional leaders.

In an advertisement in today’s SN, PM Hinds said: “The incorporation of the Linden area into the national electricity grid was advocated decades ago. It is a natural step in the growth and development of Linden. The merger of all service areas, and the incorporation of Linden into the national electricity grid, is the final step in the journey of citizens of Linden, and Linden, itself from being all just bauxite employees living in a bauxite town, to self-sufficient Guyanese living in the second town in Guyana”.

Protesters in Linden today
Protesters in Linden today

He noted that from July 1 this year, Linden customers are being asked to pay only half of what customers in Bartica, New Amsterdam, Georgetown, Corriverton and Anna Regina have to pay.

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