–in face of sexual harassment charges levied against official
THE Board of Directors of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) announced Sunday that it is immediately putting steps in place to “tackle the issue of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace”.
This is one week after reports first surfaced in the media about a female employee of a private company located at the airport being sexually assaulted by a senior airport official, and days after the said employee was publicly and embarrassingly removed from her workplace.
The young woman in question says that the decision taken by the CJIA Board gives her little comfort, as she now sits at home without a job, and in a fragile psychological state of mind, watching her life fall apart, questioning if she even did the right thing by reporting the matter.
“I am so tired, I feel like I need to see a psychiatrist… for today, I have lost every hope I had when I started this. I felt so sure I was doing the right thing; I said let me do this, because something wrong took place,” she said, trying her best to hold back the tears.
“I’m nobody; my parents aren’t important! I’m not important! To the whole world, you are nobody! So they say, ‘We can do what we want with you, and nobody will do anything.’ That’s just how this seems to me,” she said, adding:
“When I went to them [Airport Management] to do something, they did nothing. They took one year to tell me something, only to have me escorted from CJIA like a criminal.”
Today, she feels very much alone.
“Who is with us in these things? Who?” she heartwrenchingly asked, amidst tears. “Who talks to the people who go through these things? Who? In my heart I know what happened in that office that day. And I thought I did the right thing; I sought the right help. And I thought it would’ve meant something. Other people are reaching out to me, telling me that it happens every day; it happens to cleaners; it happens to security.”
The young woman is alleging that the senior airport official not only touched her inappropriately, but also kissed her on her lips back in July 2018. At least one other person has since come forward, detailing how she was sexually harassed by yet another senior airport official some seven years ago, when she was just 17.
The CJIA Board, in its statement, has said that it condemns any behaviour which creates an unsafe environment for staff, or anyone utilising the services at the airport, and that several measures are being put in place to remedy the situation.
AN IMMEDIATE REVIEW
“The Board 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. Training will be provided for all persons who work at the airport, including staff, at all levels, and persons working at the airport on behalf of other agencies and companies,” the compny said, adding:
“The CJIA board expects to have the external human resource management and gender affairs consultants in place by the end of this month.”
The young lady at the centre of the matter says she does not know if the report she made to the management of the airport since July 2018 was ever reported to the Board, so she wants to be heard.
“The Board has women,” she said, “but nobody on the Board is taking the time to reach out to me to say, ‘Hey, let’s hear from your side what happened.’ You don’t have to believe me, but give me a hearing. One year ago I made a formal complaint; one year. I am there for 12 years, and nobody has reached out to me.”
The Board said it will be launching its own investigation, and has pledged to get to the bottom of the issue.
“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 said in its statement.
The victim said when the incident occurred, she immediately reported it to the Airport’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ramesh Ghir, and Human Resources Manager, Yeolena Callender. She said that both Ghir and Callender gave her all assurance that the matter would be dealt with. Today, one year on, she says, that’s all they’ve ever told her.
“I had a meeting with the HR and the CEO, where he gave me his assurance he will deal with it, and how this can’t happen under his watch,” the young lady recounted. “He went so far as to tell me, ‘My daughter, I will do my best.’ I said, ‘Are you sure I will not be removed?’ He said, ‘No. I give you my word.’”
After making an official police report at the Timehri Police Station last Monday, she said, her airport security pass was taken away, therby preventing her from working. She said she is yet to be told why her pass was taken away from her.
“I basically have no job,” she said. “They came to my store and took my badge, and escorted me. No formal letter was sent to my boss or management to say, ‘For this reason… or ‘We are revoking the pass for X, Y, Z or whatever.’ Nothing! They just come and just… like is their house they running. Management for my company has reached out to them; my lawyer has sent a letter asking them to state reasons… No response.”
As she went on to say, “The Airport is operating like an independent organisation, or a cult, I should say, because it seems to be run by one man who can do as he pleases. I have not breached security codes; I was not given a reason for removing me. I am not the culprit in this thing. They have absolutely no reason; I have not broken any code.”