Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has objected to last November’s reappointment of the members of the Public Service Commission (PSC), which the court has ruled broke the rules relating to the promotion of public officers.
The Cecil “Blazer” Williams headed commission was reappointed for two years, about a month before the court ruling.
“As if, it’s basically, they are saying, … they can essentially do what they like, that whatever the court decides doesn’t really impact on their appointments and the people who they want to sit on the commission. And this is a matter that really thumbs its nose at the public servants.”
The Constitution gives the prime minister the power to nominate all members of the PSC.
Gonsalves, speaking at a press conference last week, said that the PSC is an independent body.
Commenting on the government’s decision to reappoint the members of the PSC, Friday said:
“They are saying that this situation that has continued for so long, that the people who have been in charge and allowing it to happen are the same people who would be heading the Public Service Commission again, and it is in face of a really damning decision that was issued by the court.”
Five public officers testified on behalf of the Public Service Union, which brought the case against the PSC.
Friday said he hopes measures are not taken against the public servants who testified in the case.
“ What they are saying is that the government has to do what is necessary to correct the problems that the court has found and that is what you do in a responsible, democratic and transparent, administration. Let’s see what happens here.”
The opposition leader said his understanding is that when the case was going forward, a number of persons who were asked to give evidence were very reluctant.
“It seems to me that that is a situation that exists throughout this country. Everybody is afraid to stand up for their rights. And I am glad to see that enough persons did so in this case that you can expose what is actually happening in the public service.”
The opposition leader said he does not think there is any remedy that can be obtained under the Unity Labour Party administration.
“This administration has proven itself to be so arrogant, so aloof, so out of touch with what is happening with the people. Because they have been there behind their high walls that are getting higher and higher everyday and, you know – I mean, how it is that you can have this situation existing so long?”
He said it is not a case that the situation had not been brought to the attention of the government.
“They basically have ignored the complaints that were made because they were being made by individuals.”
He said that Joel Poyer, one of the litigants, has said that he had brought his case, individually, to the attention of those who know what to do about it and nothing was done.
“And there you have, a court has made a decision. What will be the response? Will they trivialise it, as they have been seeking to do, to say, listen, the case wasn’t properly prepared or it wasn’t properly presented.
“This is an indictment, if you do that, on the attorney general, because the attorney general was the lawyer on the Public Service Commission case. But the point is that when you have a judge making such a detailed recitation of the problems that we are encountering in the public service, then you have to take note and don’t worry about who brought the litigation and how you are going to get even with people who are standing up for their rights, essentially, and saying let the law be in force… just follow the regulations. If I qualify, I qualify; if I don’t, I don’t. Let somebody else get the job if they are better than me.”
Last week, President of the Public Service Union, Elroy Boucher, who also testified in the case, also called for the replacement of the members of the PSC.