Just a little more than a week after a senior official at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) embroiled in sexual assault allegations was suspended, pending a police investigation, he is back on the job. However, strangely enough, the security clearance of his female accuser who worked at a duty free concessionaire at the airport has not been approved for her to return to work.
This latest development would raise more questions about the airport’s position on the matter.
The issue is reportedly being investigated by the police, with a picket exercise even being held Thursday in front of the Ministry of Social Protection.
On Thursday also, airport sources indicated that the senior official was back on the job. The female accuser yesterday said she remains at home and has not been asked to return to work at the airport. Her employer has offered for her to work in the city offices, but the traumatised woman, in her 30s, asked for some time off.
Yesterday, Alex Graham, a public relations representative for CJIA, confirmed that the senior official was back on the job since Thursday.
He said that at this time, there is an active police investigation and the airport’s management would not be commenting on the woman’s security clearance or any other issues relating to it.
The answers would be strange, as it was the woman who filed the police report last week, sparking awareness of the sexual harassment at work places.
Until now, the matter has not gathered much attention.
The Ministry of Social Protection is reportedly entering the fray now. It wants to know why the airport failed to officially write the woman’s employer telling them the reasons for withdrawing the woman’s security pass. Even if the woman’s pass was withdrawn and the airport official placed on suspension, it would have been understandable.
“So you have an alleged victim who filed a police complaint after the airport management dragged its feet on the matter, and you retaliate by taking away her security clearance? We intend to take up this matter,” a Ministry of Social Protection official said yesterday.
The airport came under the spotlight a few weeks ago after the woman complained that the senior official allegedly held her and kissed her twice in his office after she visited him on an issue. The alleged incident took place July month-end, last year.
She complained the next day to CJIA’s head, Ramesh Ghir, about the alleged sexual assault.
Ghir promised to look into the matter. The police were not summoned, in what should have been an automatic criminal investigation.
For several months, the woman did not hear anything. She reportedly demanded an answer and it was only a few weeks ago she received the courtesy of a text message telling her that the matter was being addressed. She was not given details.
After the matter came to light, the woman filed a police complaint about two weeks ago. She was called to the airport the next day where security officers took away her pass and escorted her off the premises.
Since then, another woman came forward accusing a very senior official of inappropriately touching her in his office in 2012 and promising her gifts and help in getting her a US visa if she had relations with him.
There are other women who said they are preparing to come forward.
The airport’s Board of Directors took days before it issued a statement last Sunday.
The Board said it has initiated steps to immediately tackle the issue of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
“The interventions reflect the Board’s deep concern about the allegations of sexual misconduct recently published in the news media. The CJIA Board condemns any behaviour, which creates an unsafe environment for staff, concessionaires, contractors, suppliers and passengers using CJIA. The Board is fully committed to ensuring that the CJIA is a safe workplace for all, especially women and other vulnerable social groups.”
The Board also said it has called for an immediate review of all policies, protocols, regulations, and practices that govern conduct and engagements in the workplace, and has taken steps to hire external consultants and specialists to conduct the reviews.
“The Board wishes to assure the public that all allegations of improper conduct will be taken seriously and there will be prompt investigations. The Board will ensure that there is follow through on any investigations that are conducted, and any allegation that is found to be credible will result in the immediate appropriate action.”
The CJIA Board said it expects to have the external human resource management and gender affairs consultants in place by the end of this month.
Reportedly, the police file has not been completed and has not been sent for legal advice.
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