A United Progressive Party (UPP) member and taxi operator is concerned about the staging of protests in Heritage Quay.
In a letter addressed to UPP general secretary Senator Shawn Nicholas and the party’s central executive, Gregory Shoy Athill condemned the picketing by Faithful Nationals (FN) at Heritage Quay, saying consideration should have been given to how this could affect “the bread and butter” of tourism stakeholders.
Athill is a former candidate who unsuccessfully contested the St. Paul seat for the UPP in the 2018 General Elections.
In an interview with OBSERVER media, he discussed the contents of his letter in detail, saying: “Quite a few taxi drivers called me and [were] basically arguing with me….and their concerns were people came off the ship and some people just wanted to go back on the ship because they were intimidated, hence the reason we don’t think it was a very good idea”.
Athill said not only can the pickets scare off tourists causing them to go back onto the ships, but they also distract them from buying and touring the country.
“Once you have something like a picket…obviously we are humans so that is going to pique their interests and because of the pickets some of the tourists become on-lookers; so instead of taking a taxi out of the city to go to a beach or something, they prefer to stay and watch to see what is happening,” he explained.
In the letter the former UPP candidate said the last picket in Heritage Quay – which took place on February 28th – put taxi drivers, vendors, merchants and hair braiders at a loss.
He said although he does not support the Global Ports agreement, he believes there should have been discussions with stakeholders before holding a picket in the area.
“The people who are working in the port area, especially the taxi drivers, who are colleagues of mine, should have been given an opportunity to be a part of the decision making so they themselves are not pushed out of the equation,” he added.
Athill compared his situation to that of the Minister of Education, Michael Browne, who opposed the Global Ports agreement against his own party.
He made it clear that as a UPP member since 2014 and a regular FN demonstrator, he is not against the group, but rather the way things are done.
The letter, dated April 2nd and sent prior to Thursday’s picket, ended with Athill reiterating his support for the Faithful Nationals and the UPP, while urging the coalition to be resolute in action but mindful in their judgement.
The Faithful Nationals have so far staged two pickets at Heritage Quay.