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Copyright ©2014 Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Honouring The 21st August, 2012 Agreement Between The Government Of Guyana And The Regional Democratic Council, Region 10

Hits: 3114 | Published Date: 27 Jun, 2013
| Speech delivered at: 59thSitting - Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Hon. Samuel A.A. Hinds, MP

Mr. Hinds: Mr. Speaker, Hon. Members, we have had a long debate and much has been said on each side. I have a concern with whether what had been said had been taken seriously. Certainly, it is when the last speaker, Hon. Member Basil Williams maintained, as he did, that the agreement is not been honoured by this Government and when, just before, our Chief Whip Hon. Member Teixeira has pointed out where the Government has been endeavouring to meet and has met important parts of the agreement which it can meet by itself. The Government has been endeavouring to reach agreement with the Members of the other side, so that we can proceed in those areas where we need to proceed together. The Government rejects any insinuation, any allegation, that it has not been endeavouring to honour the agreement entered into with the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region 10 on August 21st, 2012.
This motion, like much of what has been said and written on this matter, is full of inaccuracies and imprecision, which some may want to dismiss as of little substance, but which taken together and accumulatively create the emotions that led to the sad event of July 18th , last year, and that is this constant feeding of people in Linden that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government - even way back in the period of  1957-1964, and this People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Government since1992 - is intent and bent only on marginalising and discriminating people of Linden and people who are not its supporters. This, in my view, is the main cause of those sad events which took place in Linden on July 18th, and a number of the other problems which have been facing the people of Linden.
Let me get back to the issue of the agreement and it is just to state it again, in my listing. I know Ms. Teixeira listed about seven or eight things, but I have the agreement here too and depending on  how it is  separated, I listed six points. The most important one and the first one is that  the situation of electricity tariffs in Linden will remain  at the pre-July 1st 2012 rates and the implementation of a future tariff regime in Linden will await due consideration of the findings and recommendations of the technical team. That has been observed and observed at rates of $2.5 or $2.6 billion a year.  It is over G$200 million per month. In the process of doing things, I sign off on it every month end and pass it on to Minister Ashni Singh and say that I approve or endorse this payment.
This is something that the Government could do all by itself and the Government has been doing that. Even, as of this year, we have seen growing pressures in the provision of electricity, even in Georgetown. We proposed to open the door towards tariff increases in Georgetown at a time when we have been maintaining tariffs in Linden.
When we consider the question of reaching agreement, specifically here, it is for the technical team... There have also been discussions about the economic committee or the economic programme. When an agreement is not reached, one question that one would ask is: Who benefits from not reaching agreement? The Government does not benefit in a sense that the Government hands have been tied and the Government has been keeping its hands tied on the matter of electricity tariffs in Linden. It is not to the Government’s benefit to be, particularly, difficult at any of its considerations for not accepting proposals that would have been made from the other side, that would have certainly taken account of the fact that it wants to move forward for a numbers of reasons.
We want to move forward with the reform of electricity in Linden. The issues of the technical team not getting going... In fact, the technical team was established. I want to say again that it was established and I, myself, too look around for places where the committees could meet and eventually a secretariat was set up in the Colgrain House there. As far as I know, it may still be on pay, because we kept it going, so that it would not be on a constraint to let it go and then to start it back again, which would have caused a delay.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Prime Minister, can you average what is the monthly cost to keep  this office going, with no meetings being held, with staff and all of that? What is it costing  the taxpayers?
Mr. Hinds: I do not know, Sir. I did not get into it. It was something that has to be done...
Mr. Speaker: It has to be a sizeable amount of money to just have an office with no work...
Mr. Hinds: It could be provided, but I did not go to it because it was something that had to be done.
On those first three things, which I have listed, one is being done at considerable cost and the other two we would want to have them completed.
The fourth one, which I have listed here, is drainage and irrigation of West Watooka and we were told that much has been done in that direction. I guess, all across our country, people are never satisfied with drainage and irrigation. There is always more to be done, but I think we have it accepted that much has been done in improving drainage and irrigation of West Watooka, and   no doubt, more would be done from time to time.
Television in Region 10: The agreement called for dish and transmitter, which  were given to the Linden community, will be given the Region 10 Regional Democratic Council. There were certain presumptions in this position which we lived with.  The question that they were given to the community is a common interpretation but they were paid for by the bauxite company. We have accepted it. The trouble is that since 1985 they have been five or six generations of equipment in this area of receiving signals from satellites and transmitting. As my colleague, the Chief Whip, had pointed out that the equipment is there. The old big dishes are there and they have been superseded many times. These small dishes do just as well, these days, and the original modules, which had to do with taking the signals and amplifying it and transmitting it, those had been burnt in incidents after a past elections, maybe the elections of 2001.The dish and transmitter are there.
We have had discussions on Region 10 applying for a broadcasting licence and the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) is waiting for its application. The issue of payments for any other... I do not know but it will be about 30 or so licence holders. That is an issue. Some of the things that I have seen and I wonder about is that at times people are encouraged to say all sorts of things, take positions and then afterwards there is a question about the delivery of it.
When the school was burnt, during those events, in Linden, there was much talk that “We are going to repair the school and build back our own school”, and so on, but when the time came to deliver it was another story. It was included in our budget for this year. As far as I know, things are initiating by the Government. The Government accepts it as its responsibility. My concern has been  the leaders of the people in Linden. In addition to feeding the story that the PPP and the PPP/C discriminate and marginalise them, they encourage them almost to talk about these fantasies: “We are going to build our school ourselves”. This Government, when it is time to deliver hard money and hard work and hard things, it does it.
I want to acknowledge the presentation of my colleague Minister Benn, which I think came straight from the heart. There are many of us who can speak, such as the Hon. Member Mr. Basil Williams who talked about going up to Linden and seeing this beautiful place. I asked him to tell me the date when he went to Linden. I want to know the date when he went to Linden and saw that. I was there; I worked there from the year 1967 to year 1992. The four years before nationalisation and the many years after nationalisation. I do not know about the good days. I have here, and I showed it before, that in 1976 when the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Burnham, went to Linden and spoke about electricity in Linden being joined with the Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC) of the day. He spoke about that. One can say that in 1976 things were already tight. He also said something. He said this, because the crowd was getting critical and agitated, “Remember that I, Mr. Burnham, am the Prime Minister of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and not for the Republic of Linden and Region 10.” Comrades, it is something painful for us, particularly, like  myself and Minister Benn, to participate in a debate such as this when, maybe, because of the adversarial nature of such a debate things have to be said,  on both sides but. We could have seen that in 1976 there were strains, already, between the founder leader, as the Hon. Member said, and the people of Linden on the issue of electricity.
Let me say, too, that the Hon. Member talked about the glorious days. By the year 1983 there was the major retrenchment of about some 1,800 of 6,500 people. Let us not get there Hon. Member Mr. B. Williams. Those are days that people, such as us, lived through and worked through because of our commitment to Guyana and the people of Linden and Region 10. We lived through, stayed and suffered through those days. It is very painful to sit and hear many of the things being said on the other side.   [Mr. B. Williams: Was it in 1976?]     In 1976, that was not the time when the tear gas was thrown into the cell. Was it that year? 
I think that recognising the call for us to avoid rehashing...Let me just say that I would not worry to go down the road that I had written up on my speech. If one goes through these WHEREAS clauses, one is almost compelled to respond to them and in that response there would certainly be a lot of rehashing.  I do not really want to go in that direction.
As to the question of the Government’s attitude, we were always prepared to speak to persons who would have been recognised as leaders of the people of Linden and Region 10. I cannot avoid saying, again, that there was an agreement reached between the Government and the leader of the APNU. We wrote it up and I got a preview by the Hon. Gentleman across from me. If  we were guilty at that time...
Leader of the Opposition [Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger]: It is a Point of Order. Did the Hon. Prime Minister say that we signed an agreement?
Mr. Hinds: I did not say that.
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: What did you say?
Mr. Hinds: I did not say that. I said we reached an agreement.
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: You made a statement Prime Minister. We did not reach an agreement. You made a statement and both Dr. Roopnarine and I queried your statement.
Mr. Hinds: I accept. I would not quarrel. I read a statement. If we want to get down that road, I read a statement which came out of a meeting we had during the budget talks. I did present it. Some modifications were made in which I read the statement with those modifications. I still have it with those modifications, but the issue is, maybe, not that detailed, that with this talk we are not respectful of article 13. We spoke with people that we recognised and expected to be leaders of Linden and Region 10. I think also that it is rather a stretch to make proposals for the electricity reform in Linden is a violation of people rights under article 13. I rather believe that it is a big stretch to say that the Government putting a proposal for the reform of the electricity sector in Linden is a violation of article 13. It is on two counts.
One, is the fact... Secondly, we did  speak with people who, hitherto, at least, on to that time one would have expected leaders and people to speak to things for Linden and Region 10.
That is my position there. It is not that we were not looking for an opportunity to talk to the people who were leading the protests. I think we can remember that there was an article by a columnist, one Mr. Freddie Kissoon, in one of  the newspapers of July 4th, two weeks before July 18th, and he related there that they mounted a  picketing exercise outside my office and I went to speak with them. I did not rush out and speak with them right away because I did not know if it might develop... One of the things one learns is that one has to make a judgement when one goes to interact with people - Is it going to make the situation worse? Is it going to make the situation better? They had spoken with Mr. Dindyal, who was leaving, and it looked as if it would not have got out of hand and so I did go and speak with them.
Hear what he said yesterday morning. Dr. David Hinds of APNU, Mr. Gerhard  Ramsaroop and Michael Carrington of AFC participated with me and Mark Benschop in a picketing exercise outside of the Office of the Prime Minister, in Kingston, over the already implemented electricity hike for Lindeners.  There is no question of it already being implemented, in any case.   He said that I was going for lunch. It was not that. I came out to meet with them.
Mr. Speaker: One second Prime Minister. Mr. Neendkumar, you made a statement, just now, that the maker of that statement probably, Mr. Kissoon, is as crazy as the mover of this motion. When earlier Ms. Kissoon made a reference to a Member, I had her withdrawn it. I am asking you to withdraw it. It is not on the record. It is wrong please.
Anyhow, he said, as I read, “Let me start with what was discussed by revealing that twice I told the Prime Minister that I appreciated that he stopped and spoke to us.” I had gone out. It was not that I was on my way to lunch, as he said. We were always prepared to looking for opportunity to speak with persons to resolve this matter in a way that there should not have been the events of the 18th of July.
This motion, in the WHEREAS clauses, talks a lot about peaceful protest, and so on. My other colleagues have already spoken to it. They pointed to the findings or the report of the Commission of Inquiry, and somewhere in my speech, I have placed to make a reference to it. Essentially we know, it states that some of the leaders also carry responsibility. It is not only the Government; it is not only the police, but some of the leaders of the protests also carry responsibility for the  out-turn of events in Linden in July. I hope we will all take it to mind.
Hon. Member Mr. Basil Williams, just now, speaking about our Minister of Home Affairs, again, repeated this situation, as it is known, the saying, “damn if you do, damn if you do not”. The situation, in which it was alleged, was that our Minister was calling the shots blow by blow of what was happening in Linden.
Mr. B. Williams: On a Point of Order Mr. Speaker. I should have dealt with it in my presentation. I made a note, but as you know, Mr. Speaker, sometimes you let things slide. The Point  of Order is  that the APNU never contended that the Minister was directing daily activities outside the bridge that afternoon.
That was never our case. Our case was that they conspired.
Mr. Speaker: You  are saying  that it was never the APNU’s  position that the Minister was personally responsible...
Mr. B. Williams: No.
Mr. Speaker: ... and was issuing instructions to the ranks.
Mr. B. Williams: … that he outside, on the bridge, was  issuing instructions over the phone.
Mr. Speaker: Do you  mean that he was not physically on the ground.
Mr. B. Williams: That he was telephoning and giving instruction was never our case. How could we prove that? We were contended that they conspired to break up the march, the seven-day protest.
Mr. Hinds: We could go to the motion, but let me say that a lot of to-do was made of the phone records and getting the phone records of the Minister. Well, we could go to some of the past motions, and so, I do not have them in my head but a lot of to-do was made about the phone records of the Minister and when the phone records were obtained and there were no calls between the Minister and the people of the ground. People were, in my view, let down, disappointed. It was not what they think.  Then there was a switch around as we had just now that the Minister kept himself apart and distant from what was happening, and so on. Comrades, we cannot get very far in this manner.
I am not sure if I should speak anymore on this subject, except let me say again that it is not true that Linden is the most depressed community in our country. I would invite all Guyanese, maybe, to make a visit to Linden and compare it with other regions of Guyana. It is to go and see how Amelias Ward has been developed and how development has taken place throughout Linden. Maybe, it is to try to get back to the records of the number of vehicles that were in Linden in 1992 and the number of vehicles that are in Linden at this time.
The Government has been doing much. I would always want us today to do more and to achieve more in all that we do, but we have been doing much. We have been holding up our end of the bargain. We have been doing the things that are really demanding. I think that this motion was ill-advised. Maybe, it was understandable how this motion was brought forward, but it was ill-advised, particularly coming after the Commission of Inquiry report and its opinion. It was ill-advised and I would like to recommend that it be withdrawn.
I thank you. [Applause]

Related Member of Parliament

Profession: Chemical Engineer
Date of Birth: 27 Dec,1943
Date Became Parliamentarian: 1992
Speeches delivered:(24) | Motions Laid:(9) | Questions asked:(0)

Related Member of Parliament

Date Became Parliamentarian: 1992
Speeches delivered:(24)
Motions Laid:(9)
Questions asked:(0)

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