Surprise Linden visit…President Ramotar rebuffed by hostile Lindeners
- a mere ‘photo opportunity’ – Region Ten Chairman
A hostile Linden rebuffed President Donald Ramotar yesterday after he made a surprise visit to the Region 10 mining town, almost one month since protests began against a hike in electricity rates.
Three protestors were reportedly killed by police, several persons shot and buildings, including a school, burnt since the protests began on July 18. Talks between government and the leaders of the town broke down several times.
Region 10 Chairman, Sharma Solomon, yesterday said that he was unaware
that the President was visiting there yesterday.
Residents of town had blockaded roads and bridges, cutting off access to key interior mining and logging communities.
The President’s first stop, amidst tight security, was at the Watooka Complex, where a meeting was held for important stakeholders. However, only a handful of persons turned up. They were given the opportunity to voice their concerns, and ask questions on pertinent issues, in relation to the current unrest in the community.
The Presidential entourage which included Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn and Presidential Advisors, Gail Teixeira and Odinga Lumumba, were met with an hostile crowd which lined a number of streets.
Initially planned for five days, the protests have stretched into four weeks.
Noticeably absent were Chairman of Region 10, Sharma Solomon, and Member of Parliament, Vanessa Kissoon who were both in the city and said that they were not told of the visit.
President Ramotar, in response to questions about Solomon’s absence, said he did not see the need for his presence since they have been in constant discussion.
“We have resumed talk with the Chairman. We met with him last night (Wednesday night) and wewill meet with him and his team again this evening (Thursday evening).”
Lindeners had called for the President to visit immediately after the three protestors were shot dead on the first day of protest.
However, a planned visit was cancelled amidst security fears.
Lindeners had wanted government to withdraw the rate increase
but government had settled for a suspension pending the outcome of a review by a special body which has been established.
That position was unequivocally rejected by residents.
Yesterday, angry residents lined the streets hurling insults as the presidential entourage passed accompanied by heavy military escort.
Some questioned “Why only now?” and ‘All we want is justice for we men wha get killed,” and ‘no increase, we can’t afford it”.
Later the President had another meeting with members of the media who were also encouraged to ask questions.
Subsequent to his engagements at the Watooka complex, the President and his entourage went across the river to One Mile, Wismar area which has been the hotspot of protest activities over the past few days. There too he again was met by a very hostile crowd.
He, however, took the opportunity to interact with a few persons there.
The next stop was the Five Corner bus shed, at Mackenzie, where he spoke with a few commuters and minibus drivers, before visiting the BOSAI bauxite plant.
The plant has been closed since the protest actions with at least one ship leaving empty.
There he was taken on a brief tour by the management and workers. He also held brief discussions with them.
The general consensus among Lindeners was that the President’s visit was a little too late.
Many were of the view that had President Ramotar met with and engaged in consultations with Lindeners during the last budget presentation, the lives of the three that were killed would have been saved, and the subsequent torching of buildings would have been avoided.
Police had used tear gas on a number of occasions to quell the crowds.
A candlelight vigil was scheduled for last evening, for the three men killed on the July 18th, at the Mackenzie Wismar bridge. Tomorrow, residents will gather at the site proposed for the erection of a monument to commemorate a month of their passing.
Allan Lewis, Ron Sommerset, and ShemroyBoyea have been declared martyrs by Lindeners and a monument is expected to be erected on the unused West Watooka Farmers Tarmac.