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Frustration as badge machine breaks down

Problems with the system that actually produces the accreditation passes for all those participating in the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain was the reason why many participants are yet to receive the ID badges, sources said yesterday

One source told the Express that he was still without his summit pass as of 5 p.m. and had been issued a temporary one to gain access to the Private Sector Forum yesterday.

"The machine making the passes broke down," one source said.

Another source said while he was not sure "if it was the machine or if it is they ran out of the special paper for the accreditation passes", he was aware that there has been a problem with the accreditation process.

The Express did observe several passes that were later described as "temporary ones" being issued to people attending the Private Sector Forum, one of the pre-Summit events that took place on board the Caribbean Princess, which is one of two cruise ships serving as floating hotels for the all summit events.

The problems with the production of the passes follows chaos at the Summit Secretariat on Tuesday, as many participants experienced great difficulty getting their passes while others did not. As of 7 last night, one source said many people were still waiting to receive accreditation passes.

Apart from this accreditation problem, operations at Tower C, which houses the Secretariat for the Fifth Summit of the Americas and the media centre, returned to normal yesterday, after the entire 26-storey building was evacuated after an alarm tripped off one of its floors on Tuesday. The alarm tripped off after electrical power was switched from the normal supply from the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) lines to the building's generators. An investigation is now under way into the incident.

Earlier in the day yesterday, there were long lines and frustrated faces as many of the delegates who went to collect their passes were kept waiting for hours.

Some locals opted to leave their passes behind and return to their homes or workplaces as the frustration grew. Some delegates said they had been waiting outside the centre at the corner of Abercromby and Hart Streets since 4 a.m. and only received their passes some seven hours later. Several media personnel from various Caribbean countries were also among the frustrated.

One employee at the Hilton Trinidad, who did not give his name, said officials did not offer any explanation as to why the issuing of the passes was taking such a lengthy period.

"They just told us to wait. I don't understand. Why they don't just have more places for us to go and collect the passes instead of everyone just coming right here. Or why they didn't just send the passes to where we work and we would collect it there? If I don't get my pass I can't work," he said.

Ester McCletchie, a resident of St Ann's, said she had been waiting since Tuesday. She said she was told that even though her accreditation pass was ready, she "could not receive it because the person who was supposed to give the permission to have it cleared was not answering his phone".

One official, in offering an explanation, said the delay was simply a result of everyone waiting for the last minute to collect passes.

"If everybody wait and decide to come here at the last minute, of course there will be a delay. We are doing our best to serve everyone in a timely manner, but they have to be patient. Some of the passes are ready and some are not. We cannot do anything else but tell them to wait," she said.

-with reporting by Aretha Welch