Reference is made to Prime Minister Sam Hinds’ letter “A Reply to Mr. Lincoln Lewis” (KN 11th May). The commitment to principles embedded in universal declarations, international conventions and the Guyana Constitution will be discomforting to violators. If leaders desire silence or acceptance of their behavior, it behooves them to uphold the instruments they have taken the Oath to respect and protect. When they fail to do so they must hear from us.
The claim by Hinds of an agreement between him and APNU leaders for an increase in Linden’s electricity tariff has no merit. Any leader who disregards their constitutional duty to consult with the people and have them involved in decision-making that affects their well being, as per Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution, must hear the voices of resistance. Leaders are elected to represent their supporters’ interest, not dictate to them; moreso the power they have is not theirs, it belongs to the people who are duty-bound to ensure it is used consistent with their legitimate demands.
At the 1992 GAWU Delegates’ Conference, in conversation with Hinds as Prime Ministerial candidate, he said when the PPP wins the elections he will give leadership to a revival of the bauxite fortune by: 1) applying Alcan’s study to have LINMINE produce 700,000 metric tonnes of RASC and increase production of MAZ; and 2) he will seek joint venture partners to produce in commercial quantities GUYCOR 93 and GUYMOL, two products that customers would have purchased.
The following is the ‘leadership’ Hinds delivered for bauxite as the responsible minister.
The Australian company MINPROC was given a contract to manage LINMINE in June 1992 and in November 1992, PM Hinds in his first engagement with Charles Sampson and me, informed the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) that LINMINE will reduce production from over 4000 tonnes to 2500 tonnes and workers will be sent home. The union advised against the decision and pointed out that the company will lose its share in the international market place and Guyana will be deemed an unreliable supplier. This information was revealed to Stabroek News.
Hinds and MINPROC’s CEO, Australian Brian Maher, denied the intent to downscale production and lay off workers. In February 1993, the unions in bauxite (GB&GWU and GMWU) were invited by LINMINE to discuss making the jobs of 1700 employees redundant. Hinds is being untruthful that “in 1983…nearly 2000 workers – about one-third of the workforce in Linden then – were retrenched…”
The company in its advisory to the unions, addressed to Christopher James, General Secretary of the Guyana Mine Workers Union (GMWU) and me, advised that 1287 workers would be retrenched. At the conclusion of this exercise, 992 were retrenched. What Hinds has not told the nation is that in 1993, under his leadership, 1700 workers were sent home and before privatization of the company in 2005, the entire workforce was terminated.
The PM has corroborated my statement that the diesel engines were removed from Linden when he says, “yes, two of the abandoned engines were transferred to GPL in 2009 and were totally rebuilt and installed at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice and Versailles, West Bank Demerara.” While he calls them ‘abandoned’ to justify their removal, suffice to say we now know the engines were not only taken to Berbice, but are in two regions the PPP won.
Hinds needs to come clean and tell this nation where is the steam turbine that was removed from Linden, which was bought when Dunstan Barrow was CEO of GUYMINE. Sam is again being dishonest in saying the “steam power station became one of the most costly generators of electricity.” In fact, this was the station that was taken over and manned by Texas Ohio.
Linden always had independent electricity generation, even unto today. Electricity and water were always elements in the production cost of bauxite, and the unions, which have been in the industry since the 1940s, factored these into negotiations with the company. Water and electricity were part of the negotiated conditions of service for the workers and fall in the category of deferred wages/salary. Water and electricity were never free. It is the PPP who gave away the workers’ sweat equity, non-renewable resources and sold the company for US$1. They ignored the unions’ effort to discuss and secure the nation’s mineral rights and the workers’ sweat equity.
The issue of the bauxite pension plan is not one of collection – I have not uplifted mine – it is about the government’s refusal to entertain advice to save the plan to ensure economic continuity for the retired. The GB&GWU’s advice to convert at least a portion of the plan into an investment fund to ensure continuity of income on retirement, by having bauxite workers and their families borrow from the Fund towards their economic sustenance and empowerment, was ignored by Hinds and Winston Brassington.
Contrary to Hinds’ claim, moneys were paid to NIS and the pension fund in the 1970s and 1980s. His claim is also untrue that “…the 69KV line joining Garden of Eden and Linden, by the end of the 1980s, neither GEC nor the Linden Bauxite Company was in a position to send power to the other.” The national grid was receiving electricity from Linden when the PPP took office in 1992 and the lines could not have been vandalised.
Under Hinds’ stewardship a fully functioning mill to produce GUYCOR 93 was sold by MINPROC as scrap metal, bringing a halt to production. Under the leadership of Horace James LINMINE submitted a plan to the PPP government requesting US$14M to rehabilitate the company. This was denied, even at the same time the government injected in excess of US$200M for sugar expansion at Skeldon.
The tax-free overtime fought for by the bauxite workers and extended to the sugar workers by the PNC government, the PPP government took away this benefit from bauxite workers but keeps it in sugar. The more than $2.5 billion bauxite workers’ contributory pension plan was destroyed by the PPP, even as they injected millions to save the sugar workers’ pension plan. The bauxite workers’ self-contributory Thrift Plan which provided soft loans for the construction and purchasing of houses was broken up by the PPP. Also, the bauxite workers’ trade school was taken away even as the government allows sugar to maintain control of their trade school.
The People of Guyana are asked, would they sit silent or support similar attacks by any government on sugar workers (a sister production sector), the way the PPP relentlessly attacks bauxite workers and their unions? I ask the PPP supporters, allies, sugar workers and sugar unions, if the PNC government had dared try this with sugar, would they have supported it or remained silent?
Hinds should know the people are not fools.
An electricity hike is pending and the government is hoping to mask it by pitting groups against each other and making Linden the issue when Linden is not tied to the national grid, and the mismanaged GPL continues to lose approximately 40 percent in electricity, the burden of which this government wants to pass on to the consumers. I stand by my statement that the President is misrepresenting issues and using coded language in a strategy of divide and rule. The exposure of Hinds’ untruths confirms my position.
The Linden issue is not about electricity. It is about a continuous attack on the economic self-determination of a people. It is about the PPP wanting to impose its management and will on the people. It is about the PPP engaging in acts to destroy a group because of their resoluteness in ensuring their rights to freedom of association and self-determination are respected.
The electricity issue is another relentless act of transgressing persons’ rights, compromising their quality of life, their dignity and self-worth, and putting them in conditions of life not of their making. Consistent with the right to name reality and make sense of one’s existence, the PPP’s 20-year policies towards this community is called economic genocide, which falls within the purview of the United Nations Convention on Genocide, accordingly defined as, “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
Lindeners are working on a plan to ensure their economic survival/empowerment, consistent with their right to self-determination. The representative national leaders must respect the people’s right and give support to the efforts of a proud people. The national leaders must also bring to the nation’s attention the electricity financial relationship in Linden with NICIL, Linden Electricity Company Incorporated (LECI) and BOSAI Bauxite Company.
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