Threats and intimidation have been plaguing the Litter Warden program for over six years. This situation which was first reported in 2012 has carried over to 2017 as the wardens are still facing resistance in their attempt to stop illegal dumping and littering.
This time however, the situation will be different as Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton announced that more would be done to make things a little easier for the wardens.
During the NDP radio program on 3 April Hon. Skelton disclosed that the wardens are being intimidated and threatened as they try to do their duty: “The Litter Warden programme is active; I have appointed quite a number of individuals to be litter wardens. The issue is some of the litter wardens – based on their concerns – felt threatened, and they were threatened on many occasions and intimidated,” the Minister said.
It was further noted that the lack of proper identification is a contributing factor to the disrespect being experienced by the litter wardens: “There is one other issue that needed to be put in place; that was a badge [or]some kind of certification showing that they are legitimate, authorised litter wardens. We did the ceremony; we give them their certification under the law. But they need something to show the public that they are who they say they are,” the Minister announced during the NDP radio program.
Nonetheless, Hon. Skelton said that the situation will be rectified because the illegal garbage dumping and littering issue has to be dealt with: “We have to do something about garbage and garbage disposal in this country. It cannot continue. People just driving along, throwing bottles and cans into the bush. It needs to stop. Every single legal resident in this country has an obligation to try to arrest this issue.”
This is not the first time that Legislators have complained about the manner the litter wardens are being treated. The unfortunate situation was previously mentioned by Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn a few years ago as he spoke of the need for the Territory to be kept clean.
Minister Walwyn while speaking in the House of Assembly on 24 March, 2015 announced that persons litter and then retaliate when they are cited for their actions. As he mentioned the issue of litter, the Minister announced: “You driving and you have your garbage on top of your vehicle and it spills and you won’t stop to pick it up, because it shouldn’t be on top of your vehicle unsecured in any case.”
Hon. Walwyn said: “You had the situation where we had the litter wardens, and they were threatened and some of them ran for their lives. You had problems getting people to be litter wardens to make sure the place was properly taken care of.”
The intimidation of litter wardens is not new and was the reason why the program was previously placed on hiatus. The initiative was reinstated in 2015 when 56 litter wardens were issued identification cards and began their duties.
The first mention of the disrespect faced by litter wardens was made in 2012. At that time it was disclosed that residents were threatening the wardens in the execution of their duties. The disclosure of the manner the wardens were treated was made in the House of Assembly by At Large Representative Hon. Archibald Christian in 2012.
In March 2012, Hon. Christian who was at the time talking about certain untidy problems in the Territory commented that: “the litter wardens have to be able to function without any fear.” “I understand that some litter wardens have been threatened because they have shown up at some people’s property basically indicating that they are not keeping them in a certain condition…I think we all have come to the realisation and the conclusion that this country is very untidy. It is not being kept the way we ought to keep it.”
Later, in November that year, Hon. Christian announced that the Department of Waste Management (DWM) was currently reviewing the Litter Warden program with the intention of resuming the initiative: “We are appealing to the public to understand that these people are volunteers, and if they get anything, it’s a very small stipend. So they themselves are stepping up and stepping forward to ensure that they play a role in ensuring that the BVI remains clean as well,” Hon. Christian said. He added that the negative factors did not dissuade persons from expressing an interest in becoming a litter warden: “I know of at least two persons who have already contacted me in recent weeks asking how to become litter wardens. I think that there are persons out there as well who are willing to undertake the task.”