Monday, 23 April 2012 02:30
By Colin Sampson
Antigua St John's - Reports have reached CARIBARENA.COM that employment on the new airport project is being channeled almost exclusively to residents of the St John's Rural West constituency.
On-the-spot investigations have revealed that such is in fact the case. George Bernard “Bacchanal” Walker, who operates a company that performs labour liaison services for the Chinese Construction Group, told CARIBARENA.COM that “the majority” of the local workers on the site are from the prime minister’s constituency.
Walker subsequently attempted to deny his earlier statements to that effect, becoming rather aggressively argumentative in the process.
However, Walker had explicitly informed CARIBARENA.COM that in his placements of local labour, he favoured people from what he termed “depressed” areas.
In this connection, Walker mentioned the areas of Green Bay and Point, neighbourhoods traditionally viewed as economically disadvantaged. Walker was, however, unable to provide any specifics as to relative numbers, or to say what proportion of the workers came from these areas.
Walker advised CARIBARENA.COM that people seeking employment on the airport project could register either directly with the Chinese construction company, or with his agency.
His main task is to screen applicants for the necessary skills, and to supply the construction company with appropriate people, according to the company’s needs from time to time. However, the construction company is free to make its own hiring decisions.
Walker professed to find nothing out of order if all or the majority of employment opportunities on the airport construction project were preserved for people from the constituency of Rural West.
He appeared to view this arrangement as quite proper, becoming quite obtuse and argumentative in response to probing questions.
In the end, Walker abruptly terminated the conversation, breaking the telephone connection in a fit of pique. He suggested that CARIBARENA.COM “had a problem” with the prime minister, and was engaged in some sort of campaign against that gentleman.
However, information received from locals both on and off the site indicated that, as one on-site informant colourfully phrased it: “De whole ah Green Bay up yah!”
Walker confirmed that Cordova “Popeye” Simon is a foreman on the project. Simon is well known to be something of a political henchman for PM Baldwin Spencer in Rural West.
CARIBARENA.COM first received notice of the situation from representatives of a group of local contractors, who had earlier agitated for work on various stages of the airport project to be channeled toward local operators generally.
The group had written to non-resident ambassador to China David Shoul in December 2011 seeking access to opportunities on the airport project. The ambassador’s office advised the group that their request should properly be channeled to the Antigua & Barbuda Airport Authority (ABAA).
This was done by letter in January 2012. No reply or acknowledgement was received.
CARIBARENA.COM observed ready-mixed concrete being delivered to the airport construction site in trucks operated by Antigua Concrete Services (ACS), a company owned and operated by Senator Elmore “Tamo” Charles.