The news that early yesterday morning – dubbed as “International Youth Day” – Linden’s One Mile Primary School was the latest in a string of buildings to be set ablaze, has to mark a new low for the troubled township.
The school housed some eight hundred students who – at best – will all now have to scrounge around in makeshift arrangements when the new school term starts in three weeks. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, the perpetrators of this vicious act of arson have declared they want no future for Linden. Why else would they deny the next generation an education?
Linden is facing an abyss: those who say they care for the people in the township can either turn away or plunge into a future that can only be far bleaker than they have experienced in the last twenty years.
There is no question that the people of Linden had a legitimate right to protest the government’s announcement that they would begin to phase out the subsidy on electricity charges that had been in place for years.
Even though the proposed Commission of Inquiry will pronounce definitively as to whether the protest was peaceful and in no way justified the later shooting of three protestors, the public consensus is that there was no justification.
The immediate outburst of anger that saw the GPL’s office being set alight – it was later extinguished without much damage – and the Linmine Secretariat razed to the ground, might have been seen as excusable under the circumstances.
But, the subsequent widespread arson can only be the result of a carefully orchestrated plan to intensify the hardships in the township so that people would resort to even more extreme actions because they have nothing more to lose. Many of the buildings that have been destroyed had offered succour to Lindeners in need – such as the Linden Community Development Trust and the Linden Salvation Council buildings at Wismar.
Over in Mackenzie, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) building which had been earlier scorched is now completely destroyed. So were the Linden Care Foundation (LCF) and the Linden Electricity Company Incorporated (LECI) buildings.
The latter destruction absolutely confirms the urge to impose further hardships on Lindeners – since not only will the cost of electricity now be a factor but its actual supply. Not only the building, but more than $500 million in equipment was destroyed, making LECI’s distribution of electricity problematical.
But the destruction of the One Mile Primary School was not the only educational institution razed. Earlier the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE) building and a canteen were both destroyed. The Mormons also reported that the rented building they used as a church in Linden was also ‘looted and burnt”.
One of the hopes of many Lindeners of revitalising the community was through the development of agriculture. On Saturday morning, the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) building at Christianburg went up in flames. As the Minister of Agriculture explained this will be ‘a major setback for local farmers’.
By most conservative estimates, arson has claimed more than $2 billion in losses in Linden by now. If we add the loss of jobs and business in the township – also due to intimidation and extortion – we return to our initial point about Linden and the abyss.
Most of the responsible political leaders have conceded that extreme elements are now in control of the Linden agenda. We are predicting this circumstance will only intensify once the protests continue.
The leaders must return to first principles. The Committee to enquire into the electricity tariffs is almost a done deal while the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Committee of Inquiry into the Linden shootings have also been agreed to.
There is the AFC’s refusal to agree for the identification of the instigators of the protests to be included in the TOR but surely this key element cannot be swept under the rug.
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