Even as the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc yesterday commissioned a new substation on Mandela Avenue, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds yesterday suggested that APNU supporters are electricity thieves, a statement labelled as “plain stupid” by Opposition Leader David Granger.
“I call on (APNU) MP (Joe) Harmon to join me in bringing down the losses, the non- technical losses we are having. Some 40% in areas to the South and West of Georgetown where he has political standing,” Hinds said at the commissioning of the Ruimveldt substation yesterday. “Where total losses are down to 10 and 12 percent, we see areas in the South and West of Georgetown where losses are up to 60 percent; 20 percent technical and 40 percent non-technical…let us start leading our people into the right things let us not make ambiguous statements,” he said.
When contacted by Stabroek News, both Granger and Harmon expressed outrage calling on the Prime Minister to withdraw his comments as they believe they were stereotypical and borderline racist. “This is the most stupid comment from the PM. The opposition does not encourage theft. He cannot prove that, he has no evidence. I think the PM should withdraw his comments because it has no evidential foundation, none,” a perturbed Granger stated.
Hinds told attendees at the commissioning that while he knows that technical shortcomings of GPL leads to losses, the biggest threat came from theft. “GPL estimates that they currently have 30 percent losses, 14 percent technical and 16 non-technical. Barbados, it is six to eight percent. On the technical losses, we have been over the decades doing the best we could with the materials we have,” he said.
“What I cannot bear at all is our losses on the non -technical side. I cannot bear that at all. I am totally embarrassed by it. We Guyanese are selling ourselves short. There may have been many reasons before but it is time that we end it. It is time we change our view of (the) world and our view of the electricity sector in Guyana,” he added.
Further, the Prime Minister said, to him there is nothing more self-perpetuating about high losses and thefts than statements and arguments that electricity prices are high. He said that politicians who argue this are incorrect as compared with places “in situations like ours” the price is lower or on par. He opined that statements to the populace that electricity rates here are high, encourages them to steal power as they justify seeming overcharges with their theft as a balance.
“It is incorrect to make that argument. But then to go on further and say ‘other people are stealing electricity therefore I must steal electricity’. There is nothing more self-perpetuating than that. My colleague in parliament who spoke about GPL getting off the backs of the people of Guyana. He should learn too about what is involved in our electricity price,” Hinds asserted.
“It’s statements like those, that when he makes them, indicates to people who might be giving him their political support, that it is right of them to do the things they do,” he added. He said that the theft was a major impediment to the development of GPL as if the company “makes 3 Kwh and gets only paid for 2 Kwh then the prices automatically is greater.”
When contacted, Granger told Stabroek News that he saw the Prime Minister’s utterances as “plain stupid” as Hinds has no concrete evidence of the claims of which he spoke. “He should have solid evidence of the persons and then let the law take its course and prosecute whoever is responsible. The APNU does not support theft,” he stated.
Harmon, for his part, expressed his disappointment in Hinds’ statements saying that the Prime Minister based his comments on questioning he faced during a Parliamentary Sectoral committee meeting earlier this year where he was grilled on GPL. “The PM is questioning and answering himself at once. I never said anything about saying that I was fooling people about electricity rates. I said because of mismanagement of the utility company that it was a burden on the backs of the Guyanese people …the PM probably (was) concerned about the statement I made because he knows the electricity rates is a longstanding debate,” Harmon said.
“Earlier this year when GPL appeared before the Sectoral Committee hearing, I questioned them in particular about theft and asked them for specific details on the communities where this loss was occurring. GPL provided that information in a way which could not be properly analyzed,” he said.
Harmon explained that the Prime Minister had said that in some areas, the level of theft was more concentrated. He said that he told the PM that for them to make pronouncements on which areas theft is greatest, it should be analyzed holistically.
“If there is a higher level of theft in an area then you have to compare (that) with the population in that area. The areas that GPL selected…has the largest population density but if they analyze the information properly, they may very well find the actual cost to GPL for theft of electricity might not reside in that area. Because there are smaller communities with heavier losses,” he explained.
“In areas where you have industrial density, you can say is only one incident you have but when you use the actual amount of loss, it equals to 100 households in a residential area because it’s an industrial company stealing,” he asserted.
Harmon called on Hinds to retract his statements as they have both racism and stigmatization attached to them. “The PM is singling out these people for me to speak to. He is stigmatizing a particular section of Guyana. Because APNU has support all across the country if we only have support in the South and West…we would not have a minority controlled parliament. He is basically saying these people are thieves because of their ethic composition. He should be ashamed of himself for doing so and should retract those utterances,” he declared.