The Linden electricity episode must be handled very delicately
The Government representatives, officials, big-business miners, the Private Sector Commission etc., in condemning the Linden electrical tariff increase protest, spouted all sorts of things. Some called it sinister and spiteful, disrupting the lives of other communities/regions. One was even amazed at some of the vacuous statements, the most ridiculous coming from a trade union executive who on national television said that houses in an entire community were wired without switches, and when “we” intervened and rewired the houses, attaching switches along with a charge of $30 per kwh “the people applauded”…such tomfoolery.
Can you imagine people having electrical appliances in their homes and having no on/off switch?” But those were among the ridiculous things said to make us look unconscionable, simpletons. What this gentleman failed to mention was that there was a time when the company used to encourage residents to keep their lights burning during the day since it made the generating system they had then function much more efficiently.
There were other such naïve and puerile comments, some you couldn’t help detecting naked grudge and envy, while others were totally lost and couldn’t see beyond the “freeness and cheapness” chorus, ignorant of the status of affairs and couldn’t fathom why the increase was such a contentious issue. Thus they couldn’t appreciate a community battling to preserve itself from being further reduce to a state of mendicancy, and in so doing, glossed over the real issues affecting Lindeners, and were merely concerned with their own interests than their hypocritical “concern for the people of the regions affected”.
A very unfortunate scenario was that some of the misleading information managed to convince poor folks out of Linden that we Lindeners should pay the exploiting and oppressive rates just like them, as if the mere satisfaction of seeing that happen would lessen their burden and make life better for them.
But what can we say about the callous and insincere remarks by Govt. officials, top functionaries and the special/lucky ones receiving super salaries making a mockery of the plight of the ordinary working man, by their brazen and repugnant comparison in terms of earnings: “We too have our bills to pay, that’s the responsibility of an adult.”
Good God, are such people for real? Could such people ever be friends of the working class? Many working folks don’t even smell the minimum wage; people still work for $100 per hour, some $5000 per week. Lucky ones get $10,000 – not to mention those who do piecemeal jobs and those without jobs. The increase, no matter how the government wrapped and presented it, had to be rejected; it was and still remains a burden beyond what Linden/Region 10 folks could bear.
The Government, it appears, was to some extent prepared for the five days shutdown: “allow dem, leh deh bubble and blow off deh steam”. They reasoned that when it was over, like it or not, we would have no other choice except to abide with its imposition. But that was not to be; the killing of the three protestors on the 18th July – the first day of the protest – changed the course of things to unexpected levels, strengthening the determination of the people: from then onward it was a horse of a different colour.
Oh! And by the way, I need to mention that so eager was the Govt. to impose this increase that even its own activists in Linden were upset and complained that they weren’t accorded even the minimum of respect by informing them of their intentions/decisions.
Now a few things concerning the actions of the protestors: When Lindeners embarked on the protest they craved support from all and sundry, though resolute in their objective. It was never their intention to spite any region or create enemies – that certainly wouldn’t have been the smart thing to win solidarity. The regions/areas affected happened automatically as a natural consequence of actions taken to be recognized and be taken seriously. No community/region was singled out period; the “lock-down” didn’t discriminate. There is an African saying: “No matter how hot the water from your well it cannot cook your rice.” The protest was not a dolly house party or a comedy show; like protests in any part of the world it was done to create an impact, and it sure did! It started at one level indicating our concerns, gradually rising to another and finally hitting a high point with the shooting and killing of protestors as mentioned above, and which rearranged the scene completely.
When those mentioned above who were critical of the protest said “you can protest how much you like, but do so in peace, do not disrupt other people/regions, allow them to get on with their lives ….. “ they were being both disingenuous and childish to think that a sustained protest of such magnitude would stand and remain independent and isolated by itself without making ripples beyond the boundaries of the community. Were they that simple? Then why a protest at all, what sense would it have made with everyone else going about their lives – business as usual, and we being a laughing stock. Before the protest, we were it seemed, invisible, dismissed, no one paid us any mind, until it brought us into full focus, and got the undivided attention of all – every man jack.
Let the envious critics say what they like, with a clear conscience, I want to repeat for the umpteenth time that electricity is the only surviving commodity left standing in the community/region from all the battles, struggles and negotiations fought for and won by bauxite workers from since the inception of bauxite mining. Every other gain/benefit has long since gone out of existence. And for as long as there remain bauxite industry/operations, the question of electricity supply to the community must be part and parcel of the deal, changing the frame with a new label ought to have no bearing whatever. That has long been a signed, sealed and done deal.
Why can’t some people get it into their heads that this Linden electricity episode is indeed special and separate from all else and must be handled very delicately, and not in the abrupt, mechanical and callous manner which was applied – like the opening and closing of a prison gate.
This issue seemed in a way to be a blessing in disguise, in that it has opened up a whole range of enlightening and interesting topics, debates, discussions and revelations on the state of affairs of many things and a multiplicity of other issues – like “Pandora’s box”. As was expected there were a number of unfortunate incidents that took place. Understand that there is no selection process for people joining the ranks of a demonstration, but such is the dynamic of protests. Then again – sad but true – people with little or nothing, no source of income, socially isolated, almost hopeless and living from day to day, without a sense of belonging, pay scant respect to order. Generally, people’s behaviour and adherence to laws are influenced to a great degree by their income. One sour note: though the increase was a community/regional issue beyond partisan interest that brought people of various political persuasions together, there was at times a lack of maturity, where there were a few here and there indentifying and targeting other of a different alliance, frightening them away from participating in a course for their own sake.
In passing: while the affairs of the PPP/C are none of my business, I just want to make an observation. The PPP/C certainly has more than its fair share of fakes, misfits, frauds and grabbers masquerading about whom you can’t help noticing. Their representatives/activists, without one iota of concern for anything except their own self interest, are favoured ones who get the resources and means, but do nothing beneficial to the community; outright hustlers, loud-mouthed and boastful. But the PPP officials who run in and out of Linden have so much faith in them, but what do the officials care, it’s all self-serving.
Notwithstanding what was mentioned earlier, may I remind the critics that this matter remains very volatile – like a volcano simmering below. No retreat, no surrender.