Cricket tourists shaken by parking arrest
Stabroek News
April 9, 2007

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Three UK-based Jamaicans say their holiday in Guyana was spoilt on Saturday when a vehicle filled with armed policemen descended on them because they had parked in what was described as a no parking area in front of the Celina Atlantic Resort in Kitty.

Their night worsened as they were forced to drive their car to the Brickdam Police Station where they spent several hours. They never left the station until about 2 am yesterday and were forced to walk to the park where they got a car. The car they were driving, loaned by a friend, was impounded by the police and the men were released on $5,000 bail and told to appear in court tomorrow.

Vytal Findley, E.L Corlis and R Benjamin, who all live in London and who travelled to the West Indies for the World Cup games, said that the incident has left a bitter taste in their mouths.

Yesterday they had to report to the station and the insurance for the car was requested. The men said they had to find their friend in church to acquire same and return to the station. Stabroek News caught up with them as they left the station just after 10 am yesterday.

"This has really spoilt our stay in Guyana, I mean it is a beautiful country and the people are very friendly but I don't understand why we were treated this way by the police. There was no no-parking sign and there were other cars parked thereā€¦" Findley told Stabroek News.

He said that they had a lovely day at the National Stadium where Bangladesh staged a major upset when they defeated South Africa. After leaving the cricket they decided to drive around the city.

They later parked in front of Celina and went into the bar for a few drinks.

"While we were having our drinks someone came to us and told us our car was being towed away. When we went out there we saw the police officer about to tow away the car, there were about seven other cars there," Findley said.

He said he asked the officer why he was towing away the car and he told them that it was in a no parking area. Findley said they pointed out to the officer that there were no signs to indicate that the area was a no parking area while adding that there was a double yellow line a good distance away from where they were parked.

"But we were parked nowhere near that line. We were parked on the grass parapet a good distance away and we pointed out to the officer that other cars were parked there," he said. He stated that the occupants of the other cars were also there as their cars were about to towed away also.

Findley said while they were in discussion with the officer a vehicle filled with policemen armed with high-powered weapons drove up.

"I said to myself 'My God what have we done? We are not terrorists, there is no need for this'," Findley recalled. He said he was very traumatised by the presence of the armed officers as he has never been that up close and personal to high-powered weapons.

They were told to follow in their cars to the station and they spent more than two hours giving statements even as they protested the way they were treated.

"Even if it was a no parking area, there were no signs and being new to the country we didn't know so why they couldn't just warn us and tell us to go? Instead policemen with big guns coming and frightening us," Findley pointed out.

He said they had every intention of returning to Guyana once the country gets a game when the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy tournament is played in the Caribbean in another two years. However, he said with the experience they are not sure they want to return.

"Your country is beautiful and you have wonderful people but that experience last night (Saturday night) was not a good one, and it is not just anyone who treated us that way, it was your police," Findley said.

They are not sure what will happen on Tuesday but they said they hope the matter is concluded in the shortest possible time so they could be on their way to see the other games.

They had travelled from England to Jamaica for the first round games and chose Guyana over Antigua to see the super eight matches.

Parking outside of Celina has been an ongoing problem. Management of the resort had undertaken work on a parking area but this was later declared illegal and the police began to tow away the vehicles of persons who parked there. This, however, has not been applied across the board. Last December, two government ministries held Christmas parties at the resort and government officials and members of the police force and army parked there without any action being taken against them.

The controversy over the parking lot is still to be resolved but regulatory officials have not said much on how the matter is to be resolved. (Oluatoyin Alleyne)