Motion passed calling on gov’t to honour Linden protest pact

The National Assembly yesterday approved an Opposition motion calling on the Government to honour the August 21, 2012 agreement between the Government and the Region 10 Regional Democratic Council, almost one year following its signing and with none of the committees having completed their work.

However the Government complained that the motion was one of cynicism since it came after the report of the Commission of Inquiry was completed and findings made public. Government did not support the motion yesterday and had called for it to be withdrawn.

The Motion was tabled by Member of Parliament for A Partnership for National Unity Vanessa Kissoon.

Vanessa Kissoon
Vanessa Kissoon

“It is unfortunate that the committees established under the agreement no longer function,” she said, referring to the Economic Review Committee and the Technical Review Committee. These committees were to have reported back to the plenary of the Tripartite talks with a view to guiding any decision on implementation of increased electricity tariffs.
“We are not disinclined to shoulder any financial responsibility but we are unable to do so,” she said.

“The Government ignored us and [launched] a national campaign to demonise us and project us as freeloaders and a burden to society,” she said.
She said that the region’s proposals for energy conservation were ignored by the Government

In opening the debate, Kissoon said that young people deserve a new political culture where all share equally in the resources of the country

“Ours is the expectation that the Administration will implement the [recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry] since our blood must not be in vain,” he said.
“It is most unfortunate that it had to take the deaths of loved ones before the Government could consider respecting our rights to be treated as equals, a right guaranteed to us under the law and a right we will fight to maintain if it takes our last breath or our last drop of blood,” she declared.

The Motion resolved that the National Assembly call on the Government of Guyana to immediately adhere to its commitments and obligations under the written Agreement of 21st August, 2012 thereby ensuring that the benefits which were to accrue to the residents of Region 10 are realized; and further resolved th
at the                             Government of Guyana be held solely accountable and responsible for all direct and indirect consequences “flowing from its continued unwillingness to adhere to the letter and spirit of the written Agreement of August 21, 2012.”

The agreement also speaks to a Land Selection Committee and Linden Television.

Government MP Odinga Lumumba said that Government is prepared to look past the Linden tragedy and work with the elected officials of Region 10. He berated Kissoon for what he said was her minimal contribution at meetings. “We are prepared to have serious negotiations but we cannot have serious negotiations with those who sit across the table,” said Lumumba.

APNU Vice Chairman and Member of Parliament Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine posed the question what the value was in having a debate on the agreement 10 months after it was signed. He said that there was value in the debate since it would allow a reasoned examination of the sequence of events leading up to the July 18 slayings of the Linden residents.

“The Technical Review Committee and Economic Review Committee are in abeyance…they have yielded nothing. Nothing much was honoured in the agreement. The fact of the matter is that we fell into a paralysis in the committees. We must recommit to the terms of the agreement and report back to the plenaries of the work being done,” he said.

Minister of Works Robeson Benn said that there was no intention on the part of anyone to have the situation at Linden on July 18 degenerate to the point where people were killed. “{There is] an insinuation in the motion that President Donald Ramotar and others were complicit in [such occurrences],” he said.

Benn said that the payment of a subsidised electricity rate in Linden has led to electricity being wasted. “There is no conservation of power going on in Linden,” Benn said.

Benn also refuted the assertion in the recital clauses in the motion that the protest was a peaceful one. “The situation resulted from irresponsible and reckless leadership from the prime movers of the protest,” he said. “We shouldn’t have a reference to peaceful protest given the findings of the Commission of Inquiry,” he said, calling for the motion to be redrafted.

Alliance for Change’s (AFC) Trevor Williams said that it is not right that after nearly a year, there is a debate on how much of the agreement has been implemented. He called for there to be reconciliation on all sides.
Dish and transmitter

Government MP Minister Bibi Shadick said that the dish and transmitter have been transferred to the Region 10 RDC. However she insisted that there must be a company or trust from which an application would be entertained. She said that the licence must be applied for and to this date, an application from the region has not been received by the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA). “The Act said sir that a licence shall be issued to a company incorporated or to a trust. This Act does not give the Governing Board the authority to issue a licence to Region 10 [since it is not] a company or a trust,” she said.

“I have asked on more than one occasion that such a body be set up and the names of the Board of Directors or the Trustees [are submitted] upon registration,” he said. “According to the Act, a licence has to be applied for by the company or trust…to this date sir. I just called to find out [whether we have received such an application and the answer is no,” she said. “I am on record as having said publicly that we know about this agreement and that the Board agreed unanimously that when a proper application comes from Region 10, it will be processed as a priority even if it has to hold a special Board meeting to do it,” Shadick said.

However, she said thereafter that Region 10 will not be treated specially and that everybody will be treated equally.

Speaking on the motion, Government MP Gail Teixeira said that the motion does not represent the issues in the August 21, 2012 agreement and called it flawed. She said that the Government could not support the motion.

Teixeira expressed concern that the motion was like telling the people of Linden that the talks ongoing between Government and the region were of no consequence.
APNU MP Basil Williams said that the Government has a way of not honouring agreements and said that satisfaction on the current Linden agreement is “light years” away.

Prime Minister Sam Hinds said that Government rejected any notion that it has not been endeavouring to honour the agreement. He said that the motion was full of inaccuracies.

Hinds said that it is a stretch to say that Government’s attempts to adjust electricity rates in Linden are a violation of the rights of persons under the Constitution. “We have been holding up our end of the bargain…the motion is ill-advised especially coming after the report of the COI,” said Hinds.

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