Kaieteur News – On Friday morning as I came out of my car, a uniformed security rank of the park came up to me and told me she was doing a survey and wanted my take on the National Park since she said I am a frequent user.
The first impression jolted me. She had two small pieces of paper in her hand. They were torn off from a scratch pad. She was ready to write. The second impression also jolted me. No nationally prominent organisation in any country, as the National Park is, would have a security rank do a survey. That is simply not their jurisdiction. Their operation is security. It is an imposition to ask them to conduct a poll among park users
A survey is always done by the academic staff of the organisation or the employers engage a consulting firm to undertake the assignment. I declined to be interviewed in such circumstances. I don’t think the process was proper but more importantly, I thought it was exploitation of the security staff.
There is a tiny hatred I have always carried in my heart and it is against powerful humans that oppress powerless people in a conspiracy of brutal hypocrisy. I have been using the park for decades now. This was one of the most admirable contributions of President Forbes Burnham. But over the past years the National Park has become an unpleasant place.
The administration treats those security employees as if they work in a concentration camp. Through surveillance cameras they monitor those guards non-stop. If they speak to a jogger for too long, they are upbraided. If they approach a user’s car, they are
spoken to. If they are seen buying a vendor’s cake they are disciplined. I have seen some terrible mistreatment of both security personnel and other categories of employees that I was compelled to do several columns on the park.
I would just mention three examples which are heart-breaking. A huge defective iron-gate fell on a security detail and he was refused compensation. A rank stopped some young men from drinking since it was closing time. One of them had beaten him up. Management suggested he file a complaint with the police and refused to do so on his behave.
It was through the interest of the then Deputy Commissioner of Police, David Ramnarine, that one of the young men was charged. Recently, the brother of the Deputy Mayor of Georgetown, Mr. Alfred Mentore, was denied his request for a glass of water. It was eventually given to him by a staff member who is a relative. Mr. Mentore told me he over-jogged and was feeling dizzy.
For protesting exploitation and mistreatment of staff, I was banned in 2018 from parking my bicycle in the guard hut, something I had done for years. In July 2019, I was banned from entering the offices of the administrative buildings, an edict that has not been lifted and one that I plan to raise with the subject minister. In 2019 also I was informed not to feed a stray cat. All the security ranks and other employees told me that they were instructed not to engage me in conversation.
You have to see this situation to believe it. An employee would say hello and quickly disappear; afraid of being seen talking to me. This started in 2018. I don’t know if the situation has changed but the employees are still intimidated in engaging in light conversation with me. I wrote the then chairperson of the board in 2019, Dr. Rachel Thomas about my bicycle incident. I got no redress.
The National Park had its problems but there were good relations among people until the APNU+AFC began to make changes and bring in their own people. Arrogance replaced good manners. Power intoxication replaced modesty. Right in front of my eyes I saw one of the new dictators openly insulting the head of security, Mr. Hamilton, who had given over 35 years of service. Within one year, most of the nice staff members that I came to know over a 10-year period had been dismissed or had left. The APNU+AFC did “employee cleansing” at the park after 2015. GAWU has not been militant against workers’ violations at the park.
Finally, the National Park, a place close to my heart, is falling apart. I am quite prepared to take the new chairperson when appointed to show him/her the deplorable state the place is in. In the interim, the Department of Environment should intervene to stop the deterioration. One last example – almost every week, a vehicle is broken into at the Carifesta Avenue section for lack of security personnel.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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