Ramotar calls for ‘cool’ heads as Linden unrest continues
- Does not rule out int’l experts in inquiry
President Donald Ramotar, while not ruling out a visit to the town of Linden soon, has called for Lindeners and all stakeholders to get a “cool head” and act with “soberness” in an effort to bring calm to Linden.
However, Ramotar’s government is not ready to rescind the electricity rate hikes – the cause of the planned five-day protest which on Wednesday saw the deaths of three Lindeners – unless there is calm.
“My administration is repeating its willingness to engage with all stakeholders in order to find the best approach to bring Linden over a specified time to the same rates as the rest of the country,” he stated.
Ramotar said Lindeners have been “terribly misinformed” by extremists and political activists about the government’s intention regarding the electricity rate increases.
The President said that what the government offered on April 19 in its engagement with opposition coalition, “which was agreed to” and later rejected, remains on the table.
“We spoke of graduism and selectively,” Ramotar stated, and said his government is prepared to discuss this proposal again.
However, he said that “fruitful discussion” cannot be had in the atmosphere that currently prevails.
“We are ready to discuss all of these matters with all the stakeholders, once normalcy is restored,” the President declared.
Ramotar said that operations at the Bosai bauxite mines have been shut down and the country’s gold and diamond mines have been starved of fuel, food and other goods as protests continue over electricity rate hikes.
“Bosai employs more than 500 persons and it has been closed for the past few days. The company has informed that it is reconsidering some further expansion of its business,” Ramotar said at his Georgetown office.
Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud is in China meeting with Bosai Minerals Group principals and directors to discuss future plans and critical strategic decisions relating to the Linden bauxite industry.
It is at this meeting at Bosai headquarters in Chongqing, China that Ramotar said the company’s board was “quite nervous” about going ahead given the protests in Linden.
The expansion plans would include mining of ore in new areas and the construction of a third kiln.
Three persons were shot dead by Police on Wednesday, the first day of protests against electricity rate hikes in the town stunted by an unemployment rate of 70 per cent.
Ramotar has agreed to set up a Commission of Inquiry and has not ruled out calling in international experts. He said the Terms of Reference for the Commission of Inquiry would be drafted by August 2.
“These developments have placed great and additional stress on the mining community which must pass through Linden to the interior regions of Seven, Eight and Nine. They rely on passage through Linden to transport food, fuel and other goods to and from the coastal belt,” Ramotar stated.
The roads to Regions Seven, Eight and Nine pass through Linden, and all traffic to those regions have been stalled since the beginning of the protest.
Entry into the town was completely blocked yesterday with residents placing debris and massive logs across the roads.
Ramotar said this is preventing goods and other supplies from getting into interior regions and mining communities.
The President repeated his government’s regret over the killings, and said he has not ruled out compensation for the victims, though these talks have not taken place.
The Linden Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Development yesterday condemned the use of deadly force by the police against the protestors and appealed for restraint.
The Linden Chamber, which met with the President, has called for dialogue between the government and stakeholders.
“We call on the Community to desist from any acts of violence that would further hurt us,” the Linden businessmen stated.
President Ramotar said that Linden will suffer a serious setback if the unrest is not brought to an end.