Above: the bauxite plant in Linden
By the Caribbean Journal staff
St Lucia Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Stephenson King is condemning the ongoing unrest in Guyana’s town of Linden, which has claimed the lives of three Guyanese nationals and injured dozens.
The violence, which began following protests over a hike in electricity tariffs, began July 18.
“The deafening silence by CARICOM to this issue is frightening and cannot persist for much longer,” King said in a statement.
King and his United Workers Party are urging CARICOM to “immediately investigate the proposed electricity tariffs” which fueled the initial protest.
“Failure by CARICOM to urgently address this issue will lead to widespread condemnation across the Caribbean and from international human rights organizations,” King said.
The unrest has led to a state of instability in Linden, which is Guyana’s second-largest town, and resulted in the complete destruction of a primary school by fire.
During the school incident, three men armed with cutlasses threatened to kill a security guard if she raised an alarm or did not leave. After computers were stolen, the school was soon set on fire.
Linden is a centre of bauxite mining activity. In large part due to the town’s economic importance, Guyana’s government had been providing a subsidy for electricity there.
But increased fuel prices have made those subsidies “unsustainable,” Guyana President Ramotar said in a letter to Lindeners last week.
A number of bridges and roads have also been destroyed, according to the government.
The protests have also led to a series of “blockages” on roads in the area, leading to the use of tear gas grenades by police. Protestors have also reportedly been throwing molotov cocktails.
Some of the blockages reportedly involved motorists being held at ransom.
Guyana’s government has said that the Linden protest has been “hijacked” by political extremists and criminals, using Lindeners’ situation to “pursue their own agenda.”
Ramotar announced last week that a commission of inquiry has been set up to investigate the three deaths.
After delaying an earlier visit to Linden, Ramotar reportedly arrived there Thursday.
King called on St Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, who is also the current chairman of CARICOM to “pay urgent attention to the deadly unrest” and devise a swift plan of action.