April 21, 2007
Linden town has been in the news a lot lately, but not for the reasons that it should. Three murders and two wounding incidents, which were as a result of alleged rape attempts, are scary statistics but more particularly so when they have occurred within the space of a few weeks in a community of less than 50,000 people. A baby and two young women have been murdered, while two other women have been grievously wounded during alleged rape attempts.
Information from the police investigators and from the townspeople themselves seems to indicate that more than one of these incidents might have been committed by the same person. One can assume then that Linden has fallen prey to a serial rapist or serial killer or both. However, at least one of the incidents - the murder of the baby - was as a result of domestic violence. It is a known fact that crime is up. What is happening at Linden reflects what is happening in the society at large; life seems worthless; more women are being preyed upon; more women are being killed by men.
While to an extent Linden is not that different from the rest of the country, were a study to be conducted, social scientists may find that Linden's particular history has a bearing on the events which unfold there today.
Linden, in Region Ten (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice), was declared a town some time in 1970. At the time, it was a booming bauxite-mining town. Many of its residents, particularly those who were employed in the mines, lived in relative comfort. The town boasted stable electricity and water supply systems and at one time was one of the few places in Guyana with cable television.
Naively perhaps, the town's entire future was tied to mining. When bauxite prices began to wane on the world market, so did Linden's future. It did not help that by this time the bauxite industry had been 'Guyanised', because the government, though it owned the mines, did not have the necessary funds to keep the industry going through this brown period. The economy of the entire country was in a downward spiral. Linden's brightest minds and best skilled workers left in droves; many to foreign climes. But some Lindeners migrated to the city and other parts of the country. Many other Lindeners, who lost their jobs in the mining industry, but chose to remain in the area, took to farming and production of leather and other craft as a means of earning a living. Widespread poverty had taken root in Linden.
For a while, the authorities struggled to retain the status quo. But eventually, the services began to deteriorate - electricity, water, even health - because, like the future of Linden, they were still tied to the mines. The diversification of the economy of this once-booming town came late; Linden and many of its people were already in a rut. Some services were privatised, with disastrous consequences and finally the bauxite mines were also put into private hands, but even this has proved troublesome recently.
Efforts were and are still constantly being made to see Linden regain its place of pride as one of Guyana's more prosperous towns. However, the rate of unemployment remains high, even with the coming on stream of the Linden Economic Advancement Programme and its sub project, the Linden Economic Advancement Fund, which seek to encourage entrepreneurship. The uncertainty which pervaded the area some years ago and still does to some extent today, seems to have damaged the psyche (and not surprisingly) of some of the area's people. And this may be part of the reason for the upsurge in seemingly desperate acts of violence. These acts speak of hopelessness and desolation of the soul.
However, unlike some other communities where violent crime has become the pattern, Linden seems to have a cadre of caring former residents who are ready to rise up and offer help and healing. Linden will be in the news again next week because its Town Week activities, which are sure to be an economic boon, are on stream despite all of the difficulties. It would be good if city residents could show the same level of commitment.