Clinton Pickering – Freelance Writer
Security threats against employees at the St James Parish Library in downtown Montego Bay reached a high level last week, compelling management to summon a meeting with staff, the police and the Ministry of Education on Monday.
Students and unattached youth have the library under siege with management being prime targets.
Monday morning’s meeting was held inside a library that had to be closed to the public because of an act of arson in which a garbage heap was deliberately set ablaze on Friday, damaging a water tank and electrical wires, resulting in the library having no light or air conditioning. Prior to that, a car tyre of a senior member of staff was punctured as a warning, accompanied by the threat of all four being slashed.
Engaging staff at the meeting were Senior Education Officer for Secondary Schools in the Ministry of Education, Everett Riley; Head of Community and Citizens Security, St James Police Division, Inspector Yvonne White Powell and her team and Officer in charge of the Barnett Street Police Station, Inspector Delroy Harriott.
A representative from the Office of the Mayor failed to show and a subsequent meeting with the private security company on contract arrived at a decision for stricter monitoring of the gates to restrict motorists using the library grounds for parking while tending to business elsewhere.
Concerns which they aired at the meeting were posted to the public on Facebook Monday evening advising, “When you wake up tomorrow morning, the Staff at the St James Parish Library may be on strike. Don’t be surprised.” Then yesterday, they staged a sit-in that lasted until mid-day when they were allowed to go home half-day to allow JPS to restore power to the premises.
Under the heading, “The St James Parish Library is under attack!!” nine reasons were given for their protest action:
“1. Daytime security was cut in 2016… Govt. couldn’t afford it
2. Ganja smoking and gang targeting on the compound daily
3. Staff are under constant threats
4. Young school girls (some under the age of consent) are having sex and sexual contact with grown men and unattached youth on the compound. Staff members have to see and blind.
5. Basic sanitation things like disinfectant and toilet paper is sometimes not available (since 2016)
6. The mobile library has been stalled for some time as they cannot afford the maintenance nor the subsistence for staff members to go out in the rural areas in which it serves.
7. Management’s tyres were slashed last week and threats were made
8. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, fire was set on the compound.
9. No electricity and no water is currently on the property.”
The Facebook post, however, omitted commitments given by the Police to take immediate steps to improve security by stepping up patrol of the premises and making numbers of senior officers available for direct contact if necessary. For the long term, it was suggested that management explore the possibility of having security cameras installed.
For its part, the Ministry of Education will be speaking directly with school principals about the need to rein in their students and the library will have the opportunity of speaking to the principals directly at their meeting with the ministry.
Among other decisions taken are that gates facing City Centre will be kept locked, the library will close at 5:00 p.m. until the current situation settles and a stop be put to the practice of persons leaving children on the library’s compound unattended.