After shutting down their community and the key access roads to the southern interior for more than a month because riot police had shot and killed three people and injured more than 20, government and representatives from the two major parties have signed off on an agreement to deal with a number of social and political ills in the bauxite mining town of Linden.
Sharma Solomon, the regional administrative chairman and clearly a future leader of the main opposition A Partnership For National Unity (APNU), signed the agreement with Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, and Khemraj Ramjattan of the Alliance For Change late Tuesday, setting the stage for a number of changes in the town of 30,000 if government this time decide to pull through with its side of the deal by implementing agreed decisions.
Among them are greater control of land distribution in Linden and in regional ten in general, approval of a television broadcasting license for the region after government would have handed back equipment it had seized from residents, the drafting of an economic plan for Linden which now largely depends on bauxite for economic sustenance and a review of planned increases in electricity rates which had sparked the protest in the first place.
It is unclear whether how much of the prime waterside land between the Demerara and Berbice rivers is left as government had been known to be distributing it to mostly indo Guyanese business men, ignoring the right of the Afro-dominated regional administration to have a say but Solomon called the inclusion of the land distribution clause as a step in the right direction.
He pulled no punches in indicating that administrators and residents trust government very little when it comes to keeping promises and implementing agreements telling Hinds and anyone who would listen that residents “remain mobilized” for any such breach, calling the post-agreement period as “a critical phase” in the struggle by Lindeners. Linden is 65 miles southwest of Georgetown, the capital.
“We trust this regime to implement the agreement because the people will see to it. The people of Linden/ Region Ten will hold this regime, the national leaders and the national assembly accountable for its delivery,” he said, noting that citizens remain concerned” about the PPP’s infamous track record on implementing agreements. This agreement is a small step in our fight for equal rights and justice and of which the cornerstone of our struggles is premised,” he said.
The protests, the lock down of the town and closure of the interior jungle roads, had put severe pressure on the economy as most of the local and foreign-owned gold and diamond mines, as well as timber concessions were starved of food and fuel as supply trucks were stranded on both sides of the Demerara River bridge as hundreds of residents had camped out on it, demanding answers to the shooting.
A commission of inquiry is to begin its work likely next month. The team will include three Caribbean jurists, retired Jamaican Chief Justice Leslie Wolfe, former Jamaican national security, attorney general and attorney K. D. Knight and Trinidadian law professor Dana Seetahal.