KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, May 22, IWN – When will the victimisation of persons who stand by their convictions and speak out end?
That is the question that Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace asked on Tuesday in the wake of the firing of outspoken public servant, Otto Sam, last week after Sam’s 33 years of service to the nation.
Sam last year blew the whistle on the failure of the staff of this country’s disaster management agency to meet for nine months — even after the hurricane season had begun last June.
In 2010, the career educator was transferred from his post as head teacher of the South Rivers Methodist School to the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO).
The transfer came after Sam complained to the Ministry of Education that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves broke its protocol by not reporting to the head teacher first, when he visited the school.
Gonsalves is the parliamentary representative for the constituency where the school is located.
Sam refused to apologise to Gonsalves as the Ministry of Education ordered and was sent to NEMO to work.
Last July, Sam wrote a letter in local newspapers about the situation at NEMO and was suspended on half pay in August, pending the outcome of an investigation.
He was fired from the Public Service on Wednesday after appearing before a tribunal.
“I see that Otto Sam has been sent his walking papers, or his marching papers. When are we going to stop this? When are we going to stop this constant victimisation of persons who have the courage and the strength to speak out and stand by their convictions and not be cowered into oblivion?” Eustace said on his New Democratic Party’s radio programme.
“Our development process must, of necessity, require people who question. Otherwise we can never improve. And that is not just for social matters, that is also for economic matters,” he said.
Eustace said the situation is similar to that facing Port Police who, he said, are at risk of losing their jobs because they took industrial action recently.
“In the same way you might want to squeeze a Port Police, the economic consequence is that he doesn’t have any job afterward. And all that can impact on the economy; it impacts on business and impacts on their personal lives.
“Why are we prepared to accept that kind of behaviour? Why are we? Are we all cowered now, cowered into a position where we don’t even want to speak?
“These things must really bother us as a nation. … I am sure we can do better than that. I am sure the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines deserve better than that. Sometimes, it seems that all we have is a plate of worries brought on by an administration that has lost its way. It is time for them to go,” Eustace said.