PM’s office attracts protest over Linden electricity tariff hike
Several high profile citizens and opposition parliamentarians yesterday staged a protest at the Office of the Prime Minister to voice their concerns over the move to raise the electricity tariff in Linden.
The increase took effect from July 1.
Social activist Mark Benschop, columnist Freddie Kissoon, Alliance for Change (AFC)’s Gerald Ramsaroop and Michael Carrington, and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s Dr. David Hinds, said that they found the utmost need to “stand firm in solidarity with the people of Linden”.
The group emphasised that a “depressed town like Linden should not be forced into such financial constraints”.
Upon noticing Bharat Dindyal, GPL’s Chief Executive Officer, leaving the Prime Minister’s office, the protesters moved to question him. Dindyal said that his company is “aware of the reality of the situation… but if you want a service you must be able to pay for it and if you don’t pay for it, somebody has to pay for it”.
Dindyal said that everyone needs to put all sentimental values aside and see what else can be done. He noted that there is tremendous scope for conservation in Linden.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds interrupted Dindyal’s response to the protesters and answered all questions posed thereafter.
Asked if the government has intentions of halting the tariff, Hinds replied in the negative, saying that last year the government subsidized $2.6B and “no government in good conscience could continue such a situation”.
Hinds said that he believes that the lack of power conservation in Linden has resulted from the fact that the citizens knew they hadn’t much to pay at the end of the month.
Reminded that the people of Linden said they cannot afford to pay, Hinds asserted that there comes a time where the government has to lead and that time is now.
He said that he does not know that Linden has 70 percent unemployment.
As one protester voiced the opinion that Linden is being victimized because “99.9 per cent of the persons residing there are Afro Guyanese,” Hinds emphasised that there has been too much propagation that suggests that Blacks are depressed and dispossessed “… but I have lived as a black man for a long time too.” He said that he made it as a black man and he believes that “the black communities should use their brains and arms and try to make a living”.
Asked about the general high cost of electricity, Hinds said that the government does not get subsidy to buy fuel “we have to pay the right price… they don’t say oh Guyana is poor, let’s give them at a reduced cost.”
Told that the Chairman for Region Ten was connected via a cell phone call, Hinds said that he wanted the chairman to know that he believes Linden is unconscionable to expect the people of Guyana to support every household in the community to the tune of $204,000 a year in electricity subsidy.
Hinds said that if invited to Linden and offered protection he would visit the mining town, however, he is concerned about the path and outcome.
With respect to the pollution issue in Linden, Hinds said that works are in progress to solve that problem.
He reiterated that there are bad as well as good spots in Linden and he doesn’t view the town as depressed.
Asked if Linden should go ahead and shut down the town, the Prime Minister would only say that they should be reasonable Guyanese.
The protesters said that they understood that the Government cannot subsidize the community, forever, however the increase needed to be adequately phased out. They said that for decades Linden subsidized for the rest of the country.
The protesters asked for a meeting between the opposition parties, Lindeners and Hinds, on behalf of the government. The Prime Minister said he would consider this request.