Nothing highlights Gay McDougal’s assessment of Guyana as a land of two realities, as the President’s open letter to Lindeners supported by the Police Force‘s two assaults on unsuspecting citizens, one on July 18 when three were killed and in the wee hours of Friday August 10, 2012.
Linden’s actions over the past 21 days have received an interpretation in the President‘s letter which shows a total disconnection between the people’s thinking and his interpretation of their actions. Yes the blocking of the roads and bridges places a hardship on us; what, however, is a worse hardship and a greater threat to our continuing existence as a viable community is the twenty years of systematic marginalization, and social and economic and now physical violence directed against this community by successive PPP/C governments. He seems oblivious to the fact, and we are very aware, that it was the onslaught by men in police uniforms on July 18 which sparked this reaction. We are very clear in our minds that our action is intended to press for justice and not to disrupt livelihoods. Nor are our actions selfish as “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
On November 28 last we indicated that we were not willing to accept the PPP/C’s unjust treatment of the community any more. We were right in our decision to reject the duplicitous, incompetent and disrespectful administration which the President’s party has offered and are even more justified because of its attempt to enforce those values with physical violence. Today I stand a proud human being, a proud Lindener, proud because we as a community took on the government’s use of force as a political weapon aimed at bringing about conformity, when we are armed only with higher virtues of righteous indignation and a morality which saw young men and women place their bodies in front of the state’s bulldozer and declare that they were willing to be killed because “it did not matter any more.” But the President refers to our militancy, unequivocality, social consciousness and a willingness to express these in the face of the state‘s brutality as “extremism”.
Extremists he says; but extremists don’t hold 40 meetings amongst themselves, 14 demonstrations and protest for 20 days in peace. Such inflammatory language can only embolden misguided persons to incite further acts of violence against a peaceful people. It is little wonder then that the resolution on the Linden crisis passed at the Toshaos‘ conference called for the administration to take all necessary action to correct the “breach of security.”
The people’s refusal to remove the barriers as a condition of the President’s visit, says that to them, his visit is either immaterial or intended to serve some ulterior agenda. The barriers, physical as they are, are symbolic of and a statement to his administration that Lindeners are a people of great dignity and pride who will not be browbeaten, either by entreaty or by force into relinquishing that pride and dignity. They stand as a statement to every man, woman and child of this nation that Article 13 is not a mere embellishment and that this administration and every other from hereon, has to be held accountable to the value of the wellbeing of all.
He sees his visit as a bargaining item; one young female Lindener opined that it was not needed to show respect to Lindeners, but rather, any such visit would have shown that the President had recognized what was the respectable thing to do. This cold utilitarian approach to visiting Linden then did not require the duplicitous expression of feeling “pain and grief.” Coming as it does almost immediately after the hinterland truckers‘ request for help and some twenty days after the unlawful killings conveys the impression that the pain of Linden‘s economic marginalization and the killing of three of its people are inconsequential and of less significance to him than the other region‘s woes. It matters to us however.
Linden’s actions are not aimed at hurting Regions 7, 8 and 9, rather they are aimed at addressing the endemic injustice in Guyanese society. It is the injustice led by the government’s insensitivity, duplicity and incompetence that has led to Lindeners having to take the actions which they are currently pursuing just to be seen and heard. As such the administration is responsible for the pain of Regions 7, 8 and 9. This is about the survival of a community which seems to be invisible and has a different reality to the rest of the country, a community which got no support from others when the major employer and sustainer of its social fabric was dismantled. When emerging opportunities were all given to outsiders, there was no condemnation from the Private Sector Commission or from the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce. Of the 180 tons of supplies parked at the stadium en route to the interior via Linden, obviously not one ton was purchased in Linden. Linden has neither complained about this nor about the exploitation of economic opportunities in the region and town which are dominated by outsiders. This is a last gasp effort at survival, doing for ourselves what we must do to survive just like everyone has been doing all along.
The President speaks of the dire straits in which the bauxite industry found itself and its treatment, as though Skeldon is in India and Linden in Afrika. It is the current administration’s destruction of the bauxite industry under the guise of privatization while holding onto the Skeldon failure that is another sign of the injustice to Linden. We saw the government dismantle the infrastructure physical and social, which maintained the community. Ironically, and contrary to the billions being squandered at Skeldon the plant and equipment which the PPP/C government gave away for $1US – for emphasis G$200 – and which the government then claimed was unprofitable; the current owners, with minor modifications are producing at record levels.
Please stop telling us about meaningless jobs; trivial jobs paying starvation wages do not improve a people’s condition. Resource accumulation, allocation of resources and upgraded human infrastructure to profitable investments do.
Linden’s population is predominantly Afrikan and as such part of the problem it faces is the result of a historical process in which efforts to keep us as plantation labourers destroyed our embryonic economy. We see no merit in the President’s promise, and we cannot rely on his word as he continues to defend probably the most incompetent minister this nation has known. As such only meaningful action is of any value; actions such as selling to the community government‘s thirty per cent share in the bauxite company, giving us control over the distribution of commercial, agricultural and residential land, having an affirmative action programme for contracts given in the region, ensuring that major investments in the region have at least a 40% local equity stake, facilitating Lindeners‘ ownership and development of resources which produce and sustain wealth, facilitating the development of the road to Brazil through Linden, modernizing the curriculum to include entrepreneurship and information technology and facilitating the development of networks that Lindeners can take advantage of, opening a school of technology and upgrading the Linden Technical Institute.
We claim the right to a decent life, this we want and these things we will secure for ourselves and our children.