Lincoln Lewis inaccurate on racial coding complaint
Reference is made to Mr. Lincoln Lewis’s missive “The President has opted for a ‘divide and rule’ strategy” (KN May 10) accusing the President and a Regional Chairman of engaging in coded language appealing to Indians. If indeed President Ramotar and anyone else is involved in coded language designed to divide people or promote prejudice then such actions and individuals must be condemned. But Mr. Lewis’s quote of the President is not a racially coded message. On the
contrary, it is Mr. Lewis who is indulged in racially coded messaging — using the same type of coded language of which he accuses his political nemeses.
I don’t think the President’s saying he is working on a policy to give “everyone cheaper electricity that Linden enjoys” is a coded message appealing to Indians. Cheaper electricity will benefit all regardless of race or class or geographic community as Lewis quoted the President “… We want to bring electricity rates down for everyone”.
When Lewis writes that an electric generating plant was moved from Linden to Berbice, that is a racially coded message. In effect, Lewis is saying that the Indian PPP government deliberately moved an electricity generating plant from an African community to an Indian community to deny electricity to Africans. If indeed the PPP is guilty of such an act, it should and must be condemned. But is Lewis telling us the truth about the plant’s move and isn’t this a serious (as well as spurious) racially charged allegation meant for Lindeners and the PNC supporters? Did
Linden suffer from a lack of electricity six years ago till now? Did the Indians of Berbice get cheap electricity from the Linden plant that was placed in their community and is this plant still supplying electricity to Berbicians? Was the cost of electricity cheaper in Berbice than in Linden six years ago and is this still the case till now?
I checked with friends from Linden and they told me there was hardly a shortage of electricity in the town six years ago and they are not sure if the plant was moved. In fact, they said the plant that Lewis was referring to was inefficient and at times inoperable and parts of it may have been moved because it was dysfunctional. They also said Lindeners were receiving electricity from another source and not from the plant. They also informed me that Lindeners benefited from cheaper electricity than that received by Berbicians provided by the PPP Indian government. Friends in Berbice said power blackouts were a regular feature of life and the cost of electricity went up. In fact, the unit cost of electricity in Berbice was much higher than for Linden. This
was one of the complaints from Berbicians that led many of them to move away from the PPP in the last elections because they felt they PPP abandoned them in favor of Linden. AFC election campaigners frequently reminded Berbicians that the PPP abandoned them for Lindeners and got
the Berbician votes. We learned from the budget debates that Lindeners pay about a fifth of the unit cost of electricity than Berbice and the rest of the country.
Prime Minister Sam Hinds debunked Lewis’s claim of “the racial shift of the electric plant from Linden to Berbice” as a myth. Hinds accused Lewis of engaging in racially divisive politics. The
P.M wrote that Lewis claim “is untrue and must be condemned for what it is — a coded untruth promoting division”.
Hinds wrote that “Lindeners were paying only 10% to 20% of what other Guyanese currently pay, and that Mr. Lewis and other APNU leaders have fomented Lindeners to refuse to pay anything more”. According to Hinds, “from the mid 1970’s, with growing financial/economic problems, maintenance schedules of the power plant in Linden could not be kept. By the mid 1980’s, the steam power station began to suffer from over-cycling, and the generators experienced flashovers. By 1990, on economic grounds, the steam station was ready for abandoning. The boilers, steam turbines and alternators are still in the steam power station. They were not removed, not six years ago, not ever! The plant was inefficient. Eventually, most of the line was vandalized, and in 2000, the portion remaining near the Linden end was granted to the electricity provider in Linden. The diesel generating plant were in poor condition and were abandoned when Omai brought their Wartsila diesel station into operation in Linden in 2005. Two of the abandoned engines were transferred to GPL in 2009, and were totally rebuilt and installed at Onverwagt, Berbice, and Versailles, Demerara” (GC May 10).
So who benefited from the partial move of the dysfunctional Linden power plant? It would seem to me not the Berbicians as the cost of their electricity is about ten times that of Linden. And who was really using coded language?
Mr. Lewis also queried when and which Indians ever fought for the right to vote? There were several prominent Indians who were engaged in the battle for increased voting rights. Dwarka Nath, the historian, wrote that Indians entered the political arena around 1910 and they constituted a small number of voters. The Indian leaders like JA Luckhoo, EA Luckhoo, AE Seeram, JB Singh, K, Peer
Bacchus, CR Jacob, Ayube Mohammed Edun, the Ruhomon brothers, etc. fought to widen the franchise. It was the great Cheddi Jagan who led the struggle for universal franchise which we obtained in 1953. The franchise was taken away from us by Burnham and the PNC in 1968. It was mostly Indians, including some of us in North America, along with some African stalwarts like Eusi Kwayana, Rodney, Clive Thomas etc. who led the battle for 24 years for the restoration of the franchise in 1992. I think Mr. Lewis would agree that as writers, we have to be careful that we don’t appeal to basal instincts that further divide a fractious nation.