The photograph on the front page of last Thursday’s edition of Kaieteur News showing a father holding his dead son in his arms is one of the most heartrending scenes that you will ever see.
It simply breaks your heart to see pictures like these, to witness innocent children killed over things that they have no or very little control.
And in situations like these it is not unusual for blame to be cast, including blame at the government, for neglecting the squatting area.
There is no reason for anyone to be living in a squatting area in Berbice and there is no justification why live wires should be on the ground, exposed.
But these are larger societal and developmental problems and this is not a time to cast blame on anyone but to try to make some sense of the situation in which a child was electrocuted.
Just around the time this same incident occurred, residents in another area in Berbice were protesting the fact that the Guyana Power and Light was not providing them with electricity. But the GPL has explained that the residents are required to bear the cost of the service.
This is, however, election season and some folks believe that if they protest at this time, they have a better chance of action being taken in their favor because the government would want to reach out to them at this time.
And they also know that if the Alliance for Change is involved in the protest, the government will act quicker to meet their demands. Or so they feel.
When the Diamond sugar workers were fighting for severance pay because of the closure of their estate, the position of the Guyana Sugar Corporation was that these workers were needed at other estates and therefore the question of severance did not arise.
The sugar company did not seem to consider that while the workers were indeed employed by the sugar company and not by a specific estate, it is unreasonable to close an estate and expect a sugar worker to go and work at another estate which is miles away from where that worker is living.
The workers’ union felt the workers had a strong case to press for severance, but the government does not take the union too seriously anymore, being more concerned with who the union employs as its advisers, than about the ability of the union to take action on behalf of its workers. As such, the government stuck to the position that the workers were needed and there would be no severance.
Up comes the Alliance for Change (AFC) and the protest. They AFC demand severance. Immediately there is volte-face by the government and it suddenly finds some three hundred million dollars to pay the workers. Why? Because of the AFC.
This is political season and therefore the government does not wish to have the AFC score any political points at this time.
This is no doubt what those who were protesting alongside the AFC were thinking when they came out against the supply of electricity. As it happens, the GPL is explaining that the persons are required to pay some fees for the service and that the corporation has had a bad experience with payment plans.
One cannot begrudge the GPL for taking this stance. Instead of burdening the corporation with the responsibility for accommodating these citizens, they should be encouraged to go and take low cost loans from financing agencies and pay back these loans in monthly installments, rather than asking the power company to facilitate them.
Better yet, the government should set a standard connection fee, say $20,000 and if this is still not enough to run the lines, the government should bear the cost.
It costs about $100,000 to run power to each home but that sum is not affordable for the small man and therefore the government needs to intervene to assist.
It may do so now that the AFC has taken a position on this issue.
However, the government has to be wary of granting power to unregularised squatting areas since doing this would only encourage squatting.
Where squatting areas can be regularized— and they should be— but where they cannot, then the persons should be told in no uncertain manner than he is squatting on state lands and under the revised laws there would be no prescriptive rights and definitely no electricity or water. This should be the position both in and out of the political season.
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