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Dismissed Salt Pond site workers cry foul

Dismissed Salt Pond site workers cry foul

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Following an executive meeting today, it will be clear if the National Community Tourism Association will be taking any action in response to the dismissal of three employees at the Owia Salt Pond Recreational Site.{{more}}

Chairman of the Association Reynold Francis told Searchlight on Wednesday that barring full information on what led to the dismissal of the site manager, visitor attendant and security guard, he would not be able to comment on the matter.

The executive is scheduled to meet at another site – the Dark View Falls in Chateaubelair.

The site workers were reportedly dismissed following a meeting between the Owia Salt Pond Management Committee and officials of the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority.

These dismissals have caused allegations of political interference to be made by persons in the community and the association itself.

A source told Searchlight that the “firing” was prompted by a government minister, who was displeased with the composition of the committee.

According to the source, the government minister allegedly made requests for the employees to be removed and replaced with persons handpicked by him.

The employees were given marching orders on March 11, while the new workers were to commence working this Wednesday.

The source indicated that the dismissed workers had attended many tourism themed workshops and had undergone months of training prior to the site being handed over to the National Parks late last year.

The source said that the new employees have not attended any training, and had not met the requirement that was set by the National Parks to be employed at the site.

The Owia Salt Pond Recreational Site is one of

14 that is being managed by community organizations, and were constructed or upgraded with the assistance of the European Union.

At a press conference in early February this year, Minister of Tourism Glen Beache had warned that he would not tolerate “politics being played at the sites”.

“I am putting it out there now…” Beache said, “… if you play politics with these sites, I will remove every single person from that community group.”

The minister who was out of state, when contacted, said he was not able to comment on the matter.

“I’ve heard certain things but merely hearsay. Until I get back in office (on Monday) and get an official report there is nothing I can say.”

The Minister said that when the statements were made at the press conference it was not sent out to any individual or group.

“I was telling everybody that. That message was for all of them.”

Head of the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority Andrew Wilson, preferring not to go into details, said that the matter was something that would be best dealt with internally by the association.

Numerous efforts to reach area representative Montgomery Daniel proved futile.