CONSERVATOR of Forests and Chairman of San Fernando Hill Board Johnny Seepersad expressed shock yesterday over claims that citizens were being refused entry to the San Fernando Hill Natural Landmark, to facilitate paid private parties.
He denied that the public was being prevented, saying that the hill was free to all.
Seepersad also said he knew nothing about visitors being preventing from taking photos by some security guards asking that persons pay a fee first.
Seepersad was contacted yesterday for a response to statements by President of the Inter-Religious Organisation Harry Maharaj who called on the State to look into the policy at the San Fernando Hill Natural Landmark, regarding the hosting of private functions.
Maharaj said citizens were turned away from visiting the hill
when private functions were being held, and denied the right to access a public place.
Speaking at the San Fernando Business Community Meeting
at City Hall, San Fernando on Tuesday night, Maharaj also said that the noise pollution laws enforced by the Environmental Management Authority apparently did not apply to persons hosting events at the hilltop location.
Maharaj said: “San Fernando Hill is no longer a national park.
It is rented out to fetes, wedding and many other private functions, and no one is allowed to go up when there is a function. You have to pay to use your cameras as well. You can’t enjoy the beautiful sunset or to capture the image. You can’t go an enjoy the beauty of nature anymore. The park must be returned to the people of San Fernando.”
Minister of Public Administration Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, who attended the meeting with other politicians, said the San Fernando Hill was managed by the San Fernando Hill Board which falls under the Ministry of Environment.
Seepersad-Bachan said she was not aware of the situation but would speak to the relevant ministry about the situation.
However, Seepersad confirmed that there were areas of the San Fernando Hill facility that were rented, but the public was still allowed during these events.
He said "Weddings normally use the yard area. They put tents and you still have access. If that is the case (as alleged by Maharaj), then we will have to deal with that. That would have been an exception rather than the norm. That is not the norm. They (security officers) are doing something on their own. I don’t think they have been instructed to do that.”
He said the board would look into the matter.
The Express today confirmed that the facility is rented at a cost of $200 a day, with the fee to be waived if the function was non-profit.
The Express was also told by several persons that they were prevented by security guards from taking photos of groups of persons. Photography is allowed at the foot of the hill. The hill top facility is open between 9a.m. and 5.30p.m.