Interviews and photos by Dreylan Johnson and Dhanash Ramroop
This week, we asked people in Linden to speak about issues that were affecting them.
Kevin Young: Basically, for me, the major issue is the fact that we need to come together and speak with one common voice. I think we have been working too much in isolation and I am talking about the major stakeholders, being the NDC, the town council, the chamber of commerce, you know. We are working too much in isolation. Currently I can tell you that the chamber has been teaming up with Linden Enterprise Network in terms of looking at investors, whoever comes into Linden we would direct them to LEN but what we need is more input and it cannot be any one entity looking at it. What we need is more conversation being with the town council, with the RDC, with BOSAI, Banks DIH. But I think as long as we can get over that hurdle and we can be able to create avenues because Linden has a wide range of areas that can be tapped into. Agriculture is one that we definitely can. We have the land that we could be able to produce our own food in Linden and be self-sustainable. The Chamber of Commerce is working with some shade house operators where we’re encouraging them—and this was a project that was done through Partners of the Americas—where the shade house operators, they’re getting into hydroponics and they’re looking at producing organic foods for Linden. Now we think that this is just a start and agriculture—we have the land, we have persons that are willing but of course finance is a problem. But there are areas in tourism that can be explored also. These are just a few of the areas that can generate some amount of income, but we need investors. I’m not gonna shy away from that. As it is, the people alone can’t handle it because we don’t have the kind of spending power and so on to handle it.
Devin Sears: In terms of the Linden Mayor and Town Council, from that perspective, and also a resident of Linden, one of my concerns is the unemployment rate. Currently, almost every year for the past 5 or 6 years we have been producing excellent students. Some, we have on rotation, about 6,500 students graduating every year and unfortunately, just about 2,000 of them have the opportunity of either going out of Linden to study or gain employment. So in that case, we have about 4,000 unemployed youths every year. So if you calculate, over the last 5 years it adds up and unfortunately, Linden doesn’t have many job opportunities. Outside of the young people not getting many opportunities when it comes to jobs and advancing in their studies and so forth, it has been proven that Lindeners are somewhat well educated because they have reached the requirements to get into the police force, the army, nursing, teaching, basically, that is what their options are. Outside of that, it even goes further than that, whereby, when it comes to the economy here in Linden, persons have to do whatever they have to do to get by. We have skilled tradesmen out there who are somewhat reduced to driving $100 cars and doing mediocre jobs just to get by to provide for their families. Fair enough, that may be a form of employment but is it enough? Generally, it’s not enough. We need more investments coming into Linden. And I believe Linden is the perfect place to invest because of the affordable electricity rate, cost of living is fairly low, it’s very, very low as a matter of fact, so why not invest in Linden? Manufacturing is something that can solve our situation here in Linden to some extent or to a great degree by providing job opportunities. Fair enough, you have sand here, you have electricity, maybe we can think about establishing a glass factory, amongst other things. When it comes to telecommunications I believe that is one of the possible investments that we can consider here in Linden because of the skillset that we have and also we have the workforce. So taking that into consideration, maybe established industries such as Qualfon and these telecommunications industries can possibly invest in Linden. Unemployment is one issue. When it comes to higher learning education, we have a lot of students who are pursuing their tertiary education outside of Linden. Why not establish a campus? Maybe a faculty would be good. Similarly, what we would have done with the Linden Technical Institute, we have partnered with Marine Life and College of the North Atlantic, MACORP, Farm Supplies and these private companies to establish a machining and maintenance programme there at LTI. So that qualification now, once you get that, you can easily get employment at Troy Resources and so forth. So when we’re talking about higher learning education, maybe a faculty coming to Linden would be good. Fair enough, we cannot bring the entire university and all its programmes, it’s gonna escalate in terms of cost and maintenance and all these things, but that is one consideration that can be made.
Marlon Washington: All I would like to say is that I think Linden was really strong in putting in the new government. And I think it’s over a year now and people keep saying that we should wait on time. But every day we wait, every day we have families that have one person employed among seven and yet still, we’re not in foresight of seeing anything to come in terms of a company. Because really, Linden is one of the most peaceful towns in the country in terms of anything you could think about but what we need right now is employment. Even if we get a company that can take off a 1,000 persons, that would be good enough. Other than that, there are some jobs being given out to contractors which is good but then we think that we need to look at more things because even though you might be looking after the roads and looking after this, if the children don’t have anything to eat, and the parents are not working then the streets will just be there in vain. Now, in Linden also, a lot of persons are turning to taxi driving because a lot of persons as soon as they get their money they go and buy a car and drive taxi but sooner or later you’re gonna find that everybody’s driving so who these persons will be taxiing? Another thing is in terms of sport. I always know since growing up, in as much as you might have had your economic circumstances, sports is one of the things that keep a community alive. And if you look around Linden, there are no vibrant sports associations. Which is stemming from the point that there is no sports administrator in Linden. Usually, we used to have people like Letiann Telford and so who used to be regional sports officers and they used to be looking into the different sports associations, making sure that they are being run properly. For instance, football, the most popular sport, for the year there hasn’t been a football tournament. So these are things that I think we need to look at and we can’t really blame the government for these things, there are persons right in Linden here that take up certain positions in these organisations and they are not doing their work. When you have exhausted your work that you’re supposed to do…then you could turn to the government, but not everything you gotta blame the government. Another thing I find happening in Linden now, the major thing, is that every time you hear about something it’s a party. I go to all but then you know, the youths them in Linden need to adopt a more serious approach to life. Everybody is puppy tail, bend down and pause and all of that and then when they done bend down and pause, they have no money to send their children to school and they don’t even have money to go home. You see them wining whole night and then when they ready to go home they have no money to go home. So I’m saying, in brief, the government should come in and see how they could get more people involved in Linden. We should play a more active role in activating sports because once youths are active, by the time you finish training you go home, you have no time to think about crime. But people have whole day to do nothing and when night falls they have to see if they can go and get something to eat and that is what is bringing up the crime rate.
Venton Montooth: Right now at this present moment in Linden a lot of things affecting Linden people. First of all, jobs. You don’t have jobs for the people to be active in the district. So I would like the government to do something about it.
Andrew Luke: It’s a lot I find the government is not doing for Linden especially. Because I now come back and I see this place in a mess. Town Council to me, they should have garbage trucks, they should have some infrastructure put in place for certain things. I just don’t understand what’s really going on with this place. I know garbage trucks where I came from pass and collect your garbage and carry it at some dump but I never see a garbage truck since I here. You have to burn the garbage. I don’t see garbage trucks passing around if it’s Mondays or Wednesdays or Fridays, nothing like that. I don’t know if they have but I’m saying, I never saw. But I find the government could do a little bit more for young people, to put certain things in place. Because Linden is like a ghost town, Linden doesn’t have anything going on ya know? Linden doesn’t have anything going on for young people. Nothing, nothing, nothing. So I don’t know what it is the government can do to help out young people. And I don’t want the help for just Linden alone, I want the help for all over, the whole country. It’s not about Linden alone, it’s the whole of Guyana.
Oscar Carr: We need an increase in wages and we need insurance to protect workers. Also, we need better safety gear. Right now we don’t have any safety gear. The respirators that we’re using now ain’t ready yet. Dust is falling in your face and all kinds of thing. We need rubber gloves, rubber boots, steel-toed boots. For instance, I didn’t have steel-toed boots and look, my toe got injured. This happened almost one month now. And they need injections for safety of workers. They have vapours that you breathe in that are filled with bacteria. It’s awful man. I forgot the name but we used to get it in Bartica when I worked with Cevon’s. They used to go to a medic place and give you an injection so you can’t become infected and so you can’t go home and spread it to your children and family. Also, better garbage trucks, like the ones they use at Cevon’s. This here can’t make it. This here you have to make three to four trips. But it’s out of order right now so we have to use the tractor. If we could get those things as soon as possible it’s better for us, so if Granger could look into it.
Rochelle Friday: Some of the issues that are foremost in Linden are basic job opportunities for young people throughout the communities. As a UG graduate in tourism, it’s very hard to get a job in a place that you grew up in. Tourism is not really a big thing in Linden, but they do have some major points that could be sold. Another thing is education wise. As such a big community and such a big supporter of the University of Guyana, in terms of the amount of people from Linden usually traveling down to go to UG, it’s a very big strain on some of the families. At the time I was going UG, it was my mother, my father and my sister. If we can get a UG facility up here, it can put less strain on some of the families that have children going to UG because most of them have to move to Georgetown than to travel every day, because traveling every day is not an easy thing. If you’re going with regular transportation, the buses or the cars, it would be like $2,000. $1,000 to go and $1,000 to come, not including going to UG, so let’s say $2,500 at minimum you would pay every single day. So that’s just for transportation, it doesn’t count in if you have to get things to eat and so forth. And if you go to UG you know the cost of printing and these things have to be factored in. Now, a person living in Georgetown has to rent a place, its maybe $40,000 per month in rental and then we have to consider things to eat and all of that. So for a person who’s a single parent or both parents are working, it’s still tough. So I think getting a university facility up here would be an asset and it could create some job opportunities for some young people in Linden because a lot of people have all the qualifications but they don’t have a job and to get something is very hard, really, really hard. I finished UG about two years now and I only recently have a permanent job in Linden because I wanted to stay and develop my community.
Lennox Stevens: I would like the President of the country to visit Linden and hear some of the different problems facing the people in Linden. Some of the problems are, the bauxite workers have a big problem and this problem already went to the Ministry. And the people see that they don’t care because the Ministry gave them some directive and they’re moving away from the directives. So I would like the President to intervene in this matter and look at it carefully. And secondly, we have a shopping plaza we call the consumers sport complex, it’s been owned by two parties at that time, Guymine and Guyana Mining and General Workers union. Guymine relinquish all the shares to the union. The union becomes the owner and shareholder of that building. They had a board of directors that was formed and when Guymine handed over the shares to the union, the members of the board decided to covet the entire thing. And for all the years they never gave us any audit report, how they spend the money, where it’s going, or nothing. They have a few people controlling the cash. Which in, they have pensioners and so on who are supposed to be enjoying the sweet from the union through this shopping plaza business and they are not enjoying it. So I would like the President to come and look into this matter, it’s a serious matter. Unemployment in Linden is still high. It hasn’t changed because they hardly have many contractors or many persons coming in to help develop Linden. The few that we have are trying but we still need some more. The town council, I would say they’re trying to an extent but a lot of things could be done. A lot more things could be done around the market square. Wismar, in front the market there’s an area that needs to be paved, right now there is just sand thrown there and it needs uplifting. The garbage bins along the way, every time the town council might bring out a few garbage bins, people are stealing them and carrying them away. At least to date, the town council has been removing the garbage around the market at least 2 or three times a day. As long as it’s full, they move it. Before, it was never moved. So you can see a little improvement in that area.