There can be no substitute for dialogue and discussion. All too often, however, there is confrontation because no one wants to consider an accommodation with the other because each considers his view the more important.
Sometimes, issues far removed from the situation would force dialogue and discussion. For example, the ruling People’s National Congress and the then opposition People’s Progressive Party were often at loggerheads. They would hold opposing views on issues of national development but they did come together when the government considered nationalization of the major assets of the country.
The opposition PPP said that it was giving critical support to the move. Many observers firmly believed that there had to be give and take with the government giving in to certain demands of the opposition and the opposition making significant demands.
As if history is repeating itself, Linden was one of the places that saw the government and the opposition uniting. On that occasion the issue, as was mentioned, was the nationalization of the bauxite industry.
This year, Linden was again in the spotlight. It had nothing to do with nationalization. It had to do with a decision by the government to cut the electricity subsidy to the mining community. President Donald Ramotar did seek consultation with the main opposition. He invited the opposition leader to dialogue on the issue.
He had earlier met with the opposition leader to discuss the pension for the old age pensioners. The budget had allocated a marginal increase. The opposition was convinced that the government could have done better for the senior citizens. The government acceded and hiked the pension substantially.
They spoke again, this time on the cut in the subvention that would have ensured cheaper electricity for the people of Linden. Things get murky. The government said that the opposition leader agreed to the cut in subvention and the limited electricity hike. The government announced the hike and all hell broke loose.
The people insisted that they simply could not afford higher electricity rates because Linden was part of a depressed community. The people said that they had no jobs and that they simply did not have recourse to supplementary incomes.
When the government said that the opposition leader had agreed to the cut in subvention, a charge that the opposition leader subsequently denied, that seemed to be the end of the dialogue.
We are in no position to pass judgement. We do know that there should have been a continuation of the dialogue.
In the developed world no matter how acrimonious the opposite parties may get they talk.
They may campaign in the media and they may hurl bitter words at each other but at the end of the day they always talk.
Guyana must be different. The affected Lindeners felt that they were not consulted and that no one was prepared to talk to them.
They took to the streets and while many argue that they were peaceful, that they did refuse to heed calls by the police for them to desist from assembling, the police shot and killed four and injured two dozen.
The reaction was swift. The people attempted to set fire to the head office of the People’s Progressive Party but the Guyana Fire Service saved the building.
They destroyed the Linmine Secretariat, set fire to some trucks, attempted to burn the bridge that links Mackenzie and Wismar and the building that houses the Guyana Revenue Authority.
Memories of what sparked Linden some five decades and spread to the rest of the country with deadly effect still linger in the minds of many. Linden was the tinder box. Once more it is Linden but this time there is need for serious dialogue and discussion.
We do need to talk to each other.
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