The former Prime Minister’s narrative of setting the record straight on Linden TV caught my attention (‘There is no Green TV to return to the Linden community’ SN, March 31, 2017). He was responding to Mr Imran Khan’s (DPI) missive of March 29, 2017 in the GC. Then I saw Mr Lincoln Lewis speaking to an issue involving the same TV station, taking a young MP to task. The MP can take care of himself but my take is that the matter is unfortunate and Mr Lewis should use his influence to bring the results the people deserve.
Now back to the letter from Mr Hinds, which I have read carefully. I have found a common thread through his letters to the press and the constant portrayal of a subtle, cultural profiling of Linden and Region 10.
I would not bother with the rest of the letter except paragraphs 10 and 11 which begin with “Editor, I beg my turn to set the record straight with respect to the proposed increase in electricity rates which proved to be the occasion for or cause of those protests which ended so tragically”.
Without fail Mr Hinds has had to come around to this issue. In being succinct and in order not to bore young people, but inform them, I will say the following:
* Construction of the Alumina Plant in 1961 and the use of the walking draglines demanded much power which was not available through any link with the coastland.
* The upgraded power plant using GE steam sets was kept in operation for more than 40 years, with regular maintenance rendered in the latter years, yet Linden boasted adequate, uninterrupted power.
* Those sets used HFO (Bunker C) which was less expensive than the sets using LFOs like diesel.
* Power generated by the steam sets could not be stored and released later, hence the advice to “use up the excess power”. Naturally, the community used much of the excess generated.
* Locals were trained and were knowledgeable about the operation of these sets and there was back-up with the diesel generator near the bridge. In fact locals operated the system for much of its existence with periodic checks by GE specialists, who complimented Guymine for keeping the sets so productive.
* Although these systems were there the Mackenzie Hospital had its own generator which ensured that power was always available at the facility if perchance there was a sudden power outage.
These points were made to highlight the fact that power generation in the town followed a path for increased production and output of bauxite, as well as processed products, with residual or excess power being used up by the community. Moreover the use of HFO would have reduced generating costs by nearly 50%.
In the 11th paragraph the former PM wrote: “the proposal was an increase … about 50% of what consumers of GPL were paying then; such a policy had been accepted and adumbrated since 1976 by the PM, Mr Forbes Burnham, during a speech in Linden to mark the fifth anniversary of the nationalization of the bauxite company there”.
Readers, note here the link with Mr Burnham’s presentation to justify the increase some 36 years later. I posit the following:
* The excess power generated in Linden being put into the national grid was a good strategy to reduce waste and represented a national good. A similar strategy was used with the Skeldon cogeneration plant. Those old enough will remember that indeed Linden provided power in the 1980s to the grid at a level of 2 MW daily.
* Mr Hinds will note too that employees from as early as the ʼ70s were paying for power. Staff level and CPR employees paid through the computerized payroll system.
* In 1976, over 5,000 employees worked directly with Guybau and another (5000) through ancillary services (contractors et al). Some homes had four persons employed with the system.
* Compare that to 2012 where the company was now privately owned and just 600 persons were employed directly; one can see that the tariff increase with no concomitant measures to deal with burgeoning unemployment and a clear strangulation of the economic fortunes of the town was the death knell of the community.
* Indeed, to have increased electricity rates by 500% in such a decadent, economic environment was provocative and pernicious, and, as Mr Hinds mentioned, was the causa belli of the protest.
* As the person responsible for the industry then, PM Hinds himself oversaw the hiring of a known Australian executive to dispose of ‘our’ power plant with no consultation with our people. The US group chosen did not pay a ‘black cent’ to acquire the plant. Further, the then government gave them title to the facility so they could obtain a loan of US$5 million from the Republic Bank.
To rub salt into the wounds of the community, we had to watch as Republic Bank tried to recover its loan by placing a receiver to parcel off the plant and sell as much as it could.
More insult to the collective will, blood, sweat, tears and pride of the community was manifested when the government paid the Receiver, $16 million to buy back the water treatment plant (LPC) which supplied potable water to residents of Retrieve and Speightland. To be transparent Mr Hinds should tell the nation what happened when arbitration proceedings were brought against the company which walked away with the US$5 million in the US, what Guyana or Linmine got after judgment was awarded.
These are things the young people must know: that because of no respect for locals and the administration knowing it all, a very useful plant was given away and ‘pawned’ with nothing coming to the community.
Naturally, a militant people would not accept these egregious postures and would take matters into their own hands, when perceived, punitive measures that threatened their existence were carried out by the government which should protect them. I calculated the community and nation lost US$20 million in one go from this bad decision.
Fast forward to the OMAI plant being hurriedly put together after this debacle around 2005-06. I sat in Mr Hinds’ office and saw a bamboozling in relation to a proposal, that as ‘caba-caba’ as my technical knowledge is, I would not have accepted.
The OMAI Services Limited was charging us, $0.12 US /KWh for capacity and when I asked if these Wartsila sets had not fully depreciated (over 30 yrs old ) and why the government was accepting that, I remember him saying we had to look at it some more.
So, here we had our steam plant where our cost of electricity would have accrued based on energy and maintenance, and now the system was saddled with having to pay energy, capacity and operational costs.
Many knew this and were aware that no one was paying attention. Profits were made on the OMAI system and continue today with BOSAI, even with subsidized fuel.
I have a whole bag of issues, but I want the pervasive, perceived paradigm of Lindeners being freeloaders to be removed from the psyche, given that the system subscribed fully to invoke mendicancy with the unilateral policies it adumbrated.