The guards have been ordered to keep the Chinese workers on the compound and to not let anyone in, especially members of the media.
Yesterday, shortly after 11 am, officials of the political party Congress of the People (COP) led by former MP Manohar Ramsaran went to the camp with a van-load of food and toiletries to distribute to the Chinese workers.
However, they were prevented from doing so by several security guards dressed in uniforms of cream-coloured shirts and black pants. The guards would not disclose the name of their security company. The guards told Ramsaran and his officials they would have to give the items to the Chinese workers over a concrete wall.
Several of the Chinese workers scampered to the wall where they received sacks of flour, bottled water, oil, toothpaste and even tins of insecticide and they showed their gratitude by raising their hands and smiling.
The guards, however, were very hostile and shouted abusive and obscene language at Ramsaran, his team and members of the media. CNC 3 cameraman Timothy Chasteau, who climbed onto a wall in an attempt to film the Chinese workers, was attacked by one of the security guards, who tried to push him off and grab his camera. The guard was pulled away by several of the Chinese workers who ran to Chasteau’s aid.
Some of the Chinese workers then begged for Ramsaran and his group to call in the police. At about 12.15 pm, two police officers from the Cunupia Police Station arrived. A policewoman walked up to the gate and ordered the security guards to open it and allow them in.
After several minutes, one of the police officers came out and approached Ramsaran saying the guards claimed they were following instructions given to them by officials of the Beijing Liujian Construction Corporation TT Limited. However, the officer added the guards came to an agreement to allow anyone onto the compound who wanted to give food items to the Chinese workers.
Ramsaran slammed the action of the guards saying it was callous of them to lock in the workers on the compound. He added when he was MP for the area he had applied for electricity but was turned down saying the relevant authorities advised him that the lands at Ramsaran Trace were for agriculture. He then questioned who authorised the land be used to house the Chinese workers.
“I was told that Town and Country gave permission to the owners of this land to establish a warehouse, not living quarters for Chinese labourers, who gave that permission? Also I tried to get an electricity supply here but was told that they could not because it was agricultural lands. I want to know now who from the Government approved that and have electrical poles and have an electricity supply available now?” Ramsaran asked.
“It is also inhumane to see the conditions the Chinese are under. Imagine the Chinese are now locked into the compound and they have to climb over the wall if they are to leave, that is not fair to them. Their rights are being violated. Are these Chinese labourers prisoners now in their own living quarters? This is a humanitarian crisis, I never thought I would have lived to see this day,” he added.
One of the Chinese workers explained to Newsday through an interpreter that they were all scared but said they were eager to go home but not without the monies owed to them.
The workers last week protested the non-payment of two months wages and about 70 of them walked along the Uriah Butler Highway where they were detained by the police and handed over to the Immigration Division. After unsuccessful meetings with Immigration, Beijing Liujian and Chinese Embassy officials, the workers were detained by police and returned to the camp.
Beijing Liujian has since applied to have the work permits of 32 of the Chinese revoked and 13 of them were expected to be sent back to China this weekend, according to unconfirmed reports.
In a statement on Friday, Beijing Liujian, a Chinese state-owned company, said it does not pay salaries directly to the immigrant workers but to their families in mainland China. It insisted all salaries have been paid and distanced itself from the conditions under which the workers live. The company also said the workers chose to end their contracts and as such they are no longer entitled to their two-months deposits. Beijing Liujian won the multi-million dollar contracts to construct the Aranjuez and Five Rivers Government Secondary Schools and to upgrade the Maracas Bay facilities.
Yesterday, the Chinese workers continued to express their fears of being abused by the guards and repeatedly asked for the police to be called to protect them.
“We be afraid them catch us at night. I ask you to call the policeman so that they can come and protect our personal safety,” one said through an interpreter.
Another Chinese worker claimed, “The guards point guns at us and tell us that they will handcuff us and carry us away. The guards are very bad. All we want is to get our money and go home, back to China, to our families.”
Another worker, named, Liu Yuan Qing, 31, told Newsday he was experiencing severe headaches and has been pleading with officials at the company to take him to a doctor for medical treatment. Shortly after his complaint, Liu was ordered into a vehicle by a Beijing Liujian official and taken from the compound. Newsday was told that he was “finally being taken to the hospital” but it could not be confirmed where he was taken and if he received treatment.
And although the workers got food items yesterday, it is uncertain where they would prepare meals since public health officers closed the camp’s unsanitary kitchen after inspections last week.
The Ministry of Labour has since advised the Occupational Safety and Health Agency has no legal authority to inspect living quarters (only work sites) and could only encourage the company to improve the camp. OSHA officials did inspect the schools construction sites where the Chinese work and said these were satisfactory.