Rafting suspended - Tourists among those affected by strike at Rio Grande
Normal operations at Rio Grande Rafting, Portland's premiere tourists attraction, was brought to a halt yesterday after three of the rafts were damaged, allegedly by the police. It has angered raft captains, who have since withdrawn their service in protest.
The damaged rafts were reportedly owned by community residents living across the Rio Grande at West Berrydale. The incident is but one of the many affecting Rio Grande Rafting. President of the Raft Captains' Association Lawrence Chisholm, who spoke to The Gleaner, was adamant that unless John Marsh, a consultant assigned to that agency, was relieved of his duties, they would continue their protest.
"We are frustrated with the leadership style of Marsh," said Chisholm.
He added, "Marsh is a dictator who loves to hear the sound of his own voice. He loves to impose, dictate, and set rules, without any form of dialogue or consultation with us. This is the last straw. We were told that he was the one that instructed the police to destroy the three community rafts, as he is of the opinion that they are being used for illegal rafting purposes."
According to Chisholm, who was supported by approximately 28 rafts captain, as well as a group from the community, the three rafting vessels were owned by farmers living across the river. He noted that the rafts were secured and were affixed with padlocks, as the owners had gone into Port Antonio to sell their farm produce.
Marsh denies allegations
John Marsh, who spoke to The Gleaner, denied any involvement with the police where the damaged rafts are concerned. He said that he was unaware of the police being under any special operation at the Rio Grande.
"I only stumbled upon their presence," said Marsh.
He continued, "I knew nothing of any police operation here today, and I got caught up innocently. Yet, I have [been] blamed for whatever is taking place at Berrydale. I am fearful for my life and, therefore, I will make my exit from this hostile environment."
During the unrest, a Coaster bus carrying approximately 30 tourists turned up at the raft stand at Berrydale, but were turned away as raft captains were adamant that they would not be resuming their rafting services unless Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett visited the site and addressed their situation.
Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn also visited the raft stand and was left disappointed as the raft captains never budged.