EDITORIAL – Cameras must roll
Perhaps the major announcement by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart during his CBCTV interview on Tuesday night last was that cameras were to be installed and operational at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
This disclosure, coming in the wake of the Shanique Myrie affair, has evoked considerable debate, not least from the union representing the majority if not all of the Customs and Immigration workers at the airport.
No sensible Government can ignore the implications of the Myrie Affair, and whether the allegations are shown to have substance or not, there is the important and related matter that it is time this issue of cameras at the GAIA is settled once and for all.
The Prime Minister was forthright in his decision. He is right to throw the full weight of his position as Prime Minister and particularly as Minister of Immigration behind what he calls this “persistent issue of the installation of cameras at our points of entry”.
The union has not objected to the installation and operation of cameras, since it is also sensibly seized of the importance of the work done at the airport and the need for vigilance and security, given recent happenings internationally which have triggered a wave of heightened awareness of the ways in which air and seaport operations may be compromised if there is any lack of vigilance.
But the National Union of Public Workers has some concerns. General secretary Denis Clarke disclosed that “cameras were already in place at the airport and although they were not officially put into operation, someone used the video footage from last December 24 and as a result two workers were illegally fired for allegedly purchasing duty-free goods”.
He further alleged that “management of GAIA Inc. has never sat down and had any real discussion with the union, but we are not opposed”. He thinks management and the union should sit down and look at some of the sterile areas and work out a memorandum of understanding.
We equally applaud the responsible approach of the union, and while we agree that the union has a legitimate view, in the final analysis the cameras must be installed, because Barbados’ vital interests are involved. As the Prime Minister himself said, “we do not want to think that there will be a recurrence of allegations of this kind”.
Of course with cameras installed, if future allegations are made, then “camera evidence should be available, either to confirm the allegations or to contradict them”.In the meantime, we remain concerned that even though the cameras are installed but apparently not operational, footage from them should have been used to fire two workers.
This matter raises very serious concerns, because we are bound to ask what safeguards, if any, are in place to protect workers whose images are allegedly caught on the cameras, especially when those images are used in a manner adverse to the workers’ interests.
The management of GAIA needs to consider this question of workers’ rights in these situations, for when the cameras are operational, these issues may again arise. We also feel that the distribution, handling and storage of such data as collected on the tapes must be discussed before the cameras are made operational.
It is not beyond the imagination to consider how uncomfortable vigilant Customs and Immigration officers might be if there is a danger of their being targeted by deviant elements for simply doing what they are bound by law to do.
There is no need for further comment thereon; but clearly there is much work to be done and many safeguards to be in place, before the cameras are made operational. But once these are ironed out, the cameras must become operational to prevent future allegations of the “cavity search” kind or otherwise. They may prove to be conclusively useful in solving future allegations.
The cameras must roll.