–“Is this the good life?” they asked during protest in mining town
By Utamu Belle
Several youths from the Linden community on Monday protested being “evicted” from an office they utilised inside the
Dexter Copeland protesting on Monday
business incubator of the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN) situated on Republic Avenue, Mackenzie.
The youths of the Linden Community Empowerment Programme (LINCEP), arm of the organisation Youth Vision founded in 2013 by Dexter Copeland.
Holding placards bearing slogans ‘Is this the good life!!!’, ‘We need our friendly space to be given back’ and ‘where are the youth friendly space’, the youths picketed the LEN building.
“We got locked out, with all our stuff inside of the LEN building. We were there Friday. Afterwards we went out in the fields to do practical. We entered the building earlier in the day but when we came back around midday we realised that there was a hasp and staple with padlock on our office door,” Copeland told this publication during the protest.
He said that since last Friday it has been a “correspondence battle” between the youths and LEN board of directors.
“They sent out eviction letters for us because we could not have paid the rent. But the rent used to be paid by the previous government, because it’s a government building. So the previous government used to support the programme, by paying the rent,” Copeland explained.
He further stated that he had written to Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice) Chairman Renis Morian, the LEN board and regional Members of Parliament following the last General Elections regarding the space and continuation of the programme.
“Everybody say ‘it’s okay’, they will look into it, because it’s a good programme. They attended the (youths) graduation even before… they endorsed it, but nothing happened. All what happened was a padlock went on the door… is a rent issue, they say we don’t have rent (money) and they deal with business, so…”, Copeland vented.
He further explained that he was informed of the eviction by the Chief Executive Officer (ag) of LEN Tanzia Gasper. Copeland related further that the previous government had intended to grant the space for free, since it’s a non-governmental organisation, however LINCEP had insisted on having them pay rent instead.
“Because at that time, LEN was financially cash-strapped, so because of the relationship we have in our community, we wanted them (staff) to have salaries and we asked the (previous) government to ensure they pay the rent. We know it’s a government building so any rent paying is paid back to the government.”
He is urging the relevant authorities to “intervene” so that the youths can have the youth space once more.
“When the youths leave school, many of them don’t have a job right away, so they come there instead of sitting down at home. They come and interact, socialise and so on instead of having their minds go to waste,” he said.
Meanwhile, Regional MP Jermaine Figueira said he had indeed spoken to Copeland regarding the issue and had indicated that the LEN was a business incubator intended to push small businesses. He said despite the LINCEP programme being a good one the organisation has to pay rent.
According to him, LEN has been lenient, since Copeland was given more than 12 months to come up with a payment plan, but failed to do so.
The MP said he had proposed the use of other avenues, including several community centres since he realised there was a need for venue. However, Copeland has remained adamant on having the venue centralized.
He said he was surprised at the protest adding that it gives a false impression that government has no interest in youths.
When this newspaper made efforts to contact the LEN CEO (ag) at her office for comment, her secretary communicated that she had indicated that she had “no comments”.
The LINCEP is a youth-friendly programme designed for school drop-outs, aiding academically in areas such as one on one tutoring and other related assistance.