GEORGETOWN, CMC – A fuel tanker for the Chinese bauxite company that generates electricity for Guyana’s second largest town, Linden, returned from the capital, Georgetown, laden with diesel fuel, averting fears of a possible blackout, media reports here said.
An official of BOSAI Minerals, the principal industry in the town, had warned the town could be plunged into darkness by Sunday night if protesters, angered by government’s hike in electricity rates, blocked a tanker’s delivery of fuel to BOSAI, which runs the town’s electricity plant.
But the independent Demerara Waves online news service, quoting an official for the local government in the Region 10, said a tanker which left Linden at 3 am Sunday (0700 GMT) for filling in the capital, Georgetown, 90 kilometres (56 miles) north, returned unimpeded to the plant laden with diesel for BOSAI Minerals.
“We are working to see how we can get some fuel in today so we can keep the community afloat,” an un-named company official was quoted as telling Demerara Waves.
Residents have blocked streets with large heavy objects and burning tires. The official said if the tanker is prevented from returning to the plant, the town would have to go without electricity.
“If we don’t get the fuel in today (Sunday), we’ll have to do that… It can be a cessation,” the official said. Demerara Waves said police and soldiers are expected to escort the tanker through potential hotspots in the town to BOSAI.
BOSAI generates electricity to process bauxite ore and for the town which is not hooked up to the national grid. The firm stopped crushing ore to conserve fuel and BOSAI workers have not been reporting for duty as part of a town-wide shutdown to protest the rate hike, Demerara Waves said.
It said BOSAI uses at least 15,000 gallons of diesel daily to fuel ore processing and generate electricity.
Police last Wednesday clashed with protesters on the Wismar-Mackenzie Bridge which spans the Demerara River, leaving three civilians dead.
As residents continued their protests under the vigil of Guyana Defence Force soldiers, a tense calm has prevailed over the town of about 60,000 people.
A government building for the mining industry and fuel trucks were later set on fire. The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association has told miners to use alternative routes to get to and from their mining operations, Demerara Waves said.
A public inquiry is to be held into the police shooting. Both the opposition Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) are backing the commission of inquiry but the smaller AFC wants an international probe, including foreign forensic pathologists to aid investigators.
The police commander for the region, Senior Superintendent Clifton Hicken, under whose watch the clash occurred, has been removed from his post on the orders of Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee. But the opposition is demanding that he be charged with murder.
Senior Superintendent Hicken headed the E&F Division, covering 36 police stations and outposts in the Upper Demerara region including the area surrounding the bauxite mining areas of Linden, Ituni and Kwakwani and the country’s interior.
On Saturday night, Sharma Solomon, the chairman of Region 10, the political division into which Linden falls, told a public meeting in Linden that the protest organisers are in for the long haul until residents’ demands are met.
Last Tuesday, the residents indicated they planned a five-day shutdown to protest the electricity hikes that followed a decision by the Donald Ramotar administration to cut the estimated three billion dollar (One Guyana Dollar =US$0.004 cents) subsidy to the Linden Electricity Company Incorporated (LECI) by at least one billion dollars.
In addition, the bauxite pensioners no longer enjoy 300 KWh free electricity but will be provided 50 KWh free and have been told they would have to pay for the remainder at existing market rates for other civilians.