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Quest to end month-old Linden crisis

Rickey Singh

Quest to end month-old Linden crisis

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TOMORROW will be one month since a political crisis erupted in Guyana’s bauxite town of Linden, with residents violently protesting the government’s decision to introduce a phased increase in electricity tariff.
But after three deaths, injury to almost two dozen people in clashes involving protesters and security forces, and the destruction of government buildings and privately owned businesses, there was no end to the crisis in sight at the time of writing.              
Significantly, the speaker of the Guyana parliament, Raphael Trotman, appealed for an end to the political deadlock between government and opposition and for mediation by an independent “honest broker”.
Speaker Trotman would be aware of claims his own party had demonstrated a hard-line approach in the electricity tariff matter, openly embarrassing opposition leader David Granger into backing off an earlier agreement with the government for phased implementation of the tariff.
Nevertheless, with a new round of “peace” talks scheduled for Wednesday evening, it would be most surprising should representatives of the government, opposition parties and the Region 10 Council abrogate their responsibilities in favour of independent mediation.
There is no precedent for such a political development in multi-party governance politics in Guyana and the speaker must know that neither of the country’s mass-based parties would risk jeopardizing their future at general elections as having been incapable of demonstrating a capacity for compromise in the national interest.
On Wednesday, while independent private media were separately reporting on the security forces “making big gains in retaking Linden” (Guyana Times) and “Linden talks resume today” (Stabroek News), Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, a Lindener and major player in the quest for a resolution, was saying that investments in Linden “are currently at a standstill”.
President Donald Ramotar, who has been presiding at the talks to end the crisis, had called off a meeting scheduled for last Friday because of fresh acts of arson, threats to the safety of commuters and attacks on the security forces.
Last month the Georgetown-based CARICOM Secretariat offered to assist in resolving the crisis. But neither the government nor the parliamentary opposition seem disposed to such regional involvement, though CARICOM played a “peace-making role” in Guyana during the decade of the 1990s in a then grim political climate.
Following late-night talks, Ramotar was yesterday heading to Linden for a meeting with Lindeners after receiving an update from the security forces. All parties were expressing optimism for an end to the crisis this weekend.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist. Email [email protected]