The Linden protest can end, if only…

July 29, 2012 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, My Column 

On occasions too numerous to count, protests change their form and outlook. That is the case of Linden. The protest started on July 18, last, over the announced removal of the electricity tariffs and the absence of economic activities in the mining communities.
Toward the end of the day things got ugly when someone among the police used live rounds on the protesters who had blocked the Mackenzie/Wismar Bridge. Three men died. The protest that was intended to last five days changed its form and its end is now indefinite.
The people have taken to protesting the three deaths, especially when the post mortem revealed that they were shot and killed with live rounds when the police were supposed to have effected crowd control. In recent times the police have been concentrating on their crowd control measures.
They acquired rubber bullets, a water cannon, and shields in the event that the protesters would have been hurling missiles. Something was amiss in Linden. The police had no shields, and the water cannon was conspicuously absent. One was left with the impression that the police were there like Alice in Wonderland, with no plan in action.
The result is that they worsened the situation in Linden to the extent that they are reluctant to even control the protest action in any way. It is as if they are now awaiting the fallout from their action, the action by the administration in the face of the public reaction to the shooting.
The protest underwent another change as the people appeared to tire. The crowds on the streets became smaller and smaller but the people allowed the material they used to block the thoroughfares to make their statement.
I was worried about food and fuel, given that the community is economically depressed. However, it would seem that victuals are not a problem, because no one seems to be going hungry. But there was one thing that demonstrated that the people were not prepared to allow criminal elements to take control of the situation.
Early in the protest a group decided to loot. They broke into the post office and into a Digicel outlet. The people signaled that they would have none of the disorder. They simply arrested and handed over the culprits to the law enforcers. That action should have sent a message to the people against whom the protest is directed, that the people were serious about their cause and nothing else.
Yet it took almost a week for President Donald Ramotar to indicate that he was going to visit the community. And when he did he set preconditions; he ordered that all the blockages be removed. Well after noon the blockages removed and President Ramotar refused to budge from his Georgetown office.
Things like these do not help anyone. Mahdia is now in dire straits because there is no fuel to power the electricity plant; the people in the mining camps are running out of food and fuel. The timber camps are in trouble because they cannot supply their international markets and Guyana is slowly grinding to a standstill.
People are now recognizing how important the interior is to the welfare of the nation. The various private sector agencies are initially appealing to the protesters to let good sense prevail, but this is not going to last for long. As the people in the interior begin to really feel the pinch they may seek to take their own action. They do not have too many options. They could seek fuel supplies from the neighbouring countries, but that is such a tall order.
I have seen many protests in my time and many turned ugly after they had been in effect for a few days. This is not heading in that direction.  This just seems to be a case of the people demanding the removal of the hike.
I would have announced the removal and would have gone back to the table to work out a position. The people of Linden say that they are not averse to paying an increased rate. I really believe that the manner in which the announcement came sparked the protest.
I have always said that the more modern we become the less we talk to each other. The government said that it did reach an agreement with the political opposition party that won the parliamentary seats in Linden. David Granger, the leader of that party later said that he did not.
There have been a lot of meetings over the situation in Linden and it is surprising that nothing has come of them. I would have expected a resolution by now, but then again, some people say that the government is not comfortable retreating from a stated position. Further, there is the view that the government is not keen to grant concessions to the political opposition.
That may be the case, but Donald Ramotar has a reputation of cutting deals with even the devil. I expect him to cut a deal now and let life return to normal. If he announces a halt to the tariff there is nothing to stop him from reintroducing it. He could talk about a graduated scale, but at a slower pace. He really needs advisors now. And he is paying a lot for advice.

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