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A protester holds a placard in Kingstown on Monday, March 20, 2023.
A protester holds a placard in Kingstown on Monday, March 20, 2023.
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Some of the workers dismissed from their jobs in December 2021 under the COVID-19 vaccine mandate praised God for the court ruling that they never ceased to hold their jobs and are entitled to all salaries and benefits.

“… God has vindicated us because this decision was not just made without really putting our faith and our trust in God,” Alphonzo Lyttle, a Customs officer who has been employed in the Public Service for over 30 years, told iWitness News on the picket line.

Lyttle was among hundreds of public sector workers who the government deemed to have abandoned their jobs for failing to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

On Monday, he was among people who responded to a call by the Teachers’ Union and the Public Service Union to picket in Kingstown in an effort to pressure the government to relent its appeal of the court ruling.  

“It’s all about faith because when you have faith in God, you understand what is really taking place, you are able to see clearly,” he said, adding that God has given a spirit of discernment “to see what was taking place”. 

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Lyttle was among workers who had protested as the government moved in 2021 to pass the law that brought the vaccine mandate into effect. 

He said he was thrown out of a chat group of past students of St. Martin’s Secondary School, in which alumni were trying to assist students with resources to help them through the pandemic. 

“… ‘Imagine members of our esteemed establishment who cannot think critically’, they said to me,” he told iWitness News.

Lyttle said that before the mandate came into effect, he was concerned about the efficacy of the vaccine as regards contraction and transmission of COVID-19.

“… and yet we see our people still bow to this mandate that this government has placed upon us in the most oppressive way, breaking our constitutional laws and the very order of how they went about it, we see the breakdown there,” Lyttle told iWitness News. 

Alphonzo Lyttle
Alphonzo Lyttle at the protest in Kingstown on Monday, March 20, 2023.

He was holding a placard that read, “Mr. Prime Minister, please seek advice from we, the people that voted you into office and not from your lawyers! We say no to the appeal!”  

Lyttle said: 

“This matter is against our citizens — we the people who have supported and voted this government into office and they have acted in a way that is unconstitutional.”

He noted that the government had indicated its intention to appeal the court ruling.

‘where is the love right now?’

Lyttle said the government is appealing against the people. 

“And this is a government that says it loves the people. So where is the love right now?” Lyttle said.

“And then you’re taking advice from the lawyers but yet the people who put you in office, you haven’t seen any advice from the people.”

He said it would seem that it is a case of the government against the people. 

“Because, how then could a government decide in the face of acting illegally, according to the decision by the judge, to still go along that path of wanting to appeal the matter,” Lyttle said. “Where is the heart for your own people?” 

He noted that the government has said that it had acted because of the pandemic. Lyttle, however, noted that the judge did not rule that the government could not act. 

“But it is the manner in which you have acted, to say to workers that you have abandoned your job and you have no benefits after working for 30 plus years — as in my case and many others,” Lyttle said.

“This is really a disgrace to our country, our nation, our people. The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines… This is disrespect at the highest level to our people and I do believe it is time for our people to take a stand.”

Lyttle said the people “need to show support, come out, stand with the protest,” adding, “… if the people really come out in their numbers, I believe the government would really have to take note. 

“I believe matters have gotten to the point where they are boiling over. There’s just so much a people can take. I believe it is time when people need to wake up and take a stand,” Lyttle told iWitness News.

Brenton Smith
Station Sergeant of Police Brenton Smith at the protest in Kingstown on Monday, March 20, 2023.

‘Marvelous! Excellent!’

He spoke to iWitness News during a picket at which Brenton Smith, a station sergeant of police, another of the original six litigants in the case, also welcomed the decision of the court. 

“Ah! Marvelous! Excellent! It is a humbling feeling. Justice for all,” Smith told iWitness News.

He said that since the court ruling, he had reported for duty at the Georgetown Police Station, to which he was assigned before he was deemed to have abandoned his job. 

“I was told that the Commissioner (of Police) indicated that the government has appealed the matter and that they will call us. They took our phone numbers and said they would call us. And that was it,” Smith told iWitness News.

In her ruling, High Court judge Justice Esco Henry said that the Commissioner of Police and the chairman of the Public Service Commission admitted that they ceded to the minister of health, without debate or challenge, powers that the Constitution gave specifically to them.

“In my opinion, this can only be characterised as the abdication of their jurisdiction and responsibility in favour of the minister and the minister of national security,” the judge said.

Smith told iWitness News that police officers “are quite supportive and they ought to be, many of whom took the vaccine under tremendous pressure. 

“Here is the opportunity for them to stand up and fight back because they might very well have a civil claim as well. You never know. This is the time for them,” Smith told iWitness News. 

Since he was deemed as having resigned his post as a police officer, Smith was elected secretary general of the main opposition New Democratic Party.

Shefflor Ann Marie Ballantyne
Educator, married couple Shefflorn and Ann-Marie Ballantyne at the protest in Kingstown on Monday, March 20, 2023.

‘Tyranny was shut down by the court’

Also on the picket line were educators Shefflorn and Ann-Marie Ballantyne, a married couple who were also affected by the mandate.

The Ballantynes, who are members of the Thusia Seventh-day Adventist Church, received religious exemption from taking the jab, but the government said it could not find suitable posts for them. 

“I feel happy, I feel pleased. Tyranny was shut down by the court and liberty of conscience was upheld so I feel happy for that,” Mr. Ballantyne told iWitness News on the protest on Monday. 

He said it was not a difficult decision to become a claimant in the matter “because I understood what was at stake here: 

“People freedom, people’s liberty to actually follow what God put on their consciences concerning what they should take into their bodies.’

He said that in implementing the mandate, “the prime minister was seeking to be God to people by dictating to people’s consciences. So, it wasn’t a difficult decision for me to say yes as one of the claimants.”

Mr. Ballantyne said he was appointed as a representative in the second claim, which is the consolidated claim, which included some 271 claimants. 

He said the government is “vindictive and wicked” in appealing the ruling of the court.

“I am confident that they will lose that appeal because they still have a hurdle to mount, which has to do with convincing the court of appeal that a worker who is present on the job, fulfilling his duty, is actually absent.”

Mr. Ballantyne said that the government was speaking in general terms, saying that it had acted in “the public’s interest” and that it would like to know how to handle another public health emergency, hence the appeal.

“All they have to do is just simply look at what the other Caribbean countries did. They didn’t do as wicked as this government did … They didn’t fire their employees,” Mr. Ballantyne told iWitness News.

“So, I am confident that they will lose again at the court of Appeal and I pray and hope and I continue to pray that the Court of Appeal would not give them a stay on this decision.”

Protesters 4
Protesters hold up placards in Kingstown on Monday, March 20, 2023.

‘… we were vindicated,’ dismissed teacher says 

Meanwhile, Mrs. Ballantyne said that since being dismissed from her job she and her family has “continued to champion the cause for religious liberty

“We know that the decision we took was right. It was right in the eyes of God and recently we were vindicated in the eyes of the court right here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who ruled what was done to be unconstitutional and unlawful and all the other terms that well describe what this wicked government did to these people.”  

She said that she did not reapply for employment as Gonsalves has been urging since last August. 

“I did not resign so what am I reapplying for? And that’s why the court agreed with what we did. The court said you are employed. So, if I am employed, why should I reapply? So, I did the right thing by God’s grace and the court vindicated us.”

Mrs. Ballantyne said that in keeping with the court order that she was still an employee of the state, she had reported for duty at St. Vincent Grammar School up to that morning. 

She said that the principal told her that he really did not know what to do, saying that he could not tell her to report again to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education.

“He said, ‘I wish I could answer but I really don’t know what to do and maybe you can sit in the general office. I sat there for a while and then I left and went somewhere else to make myself more productive,” Mrs. Ballantyne told iWitness News. 

She said that unlike what she had heard about some principals being “really heartless and cold towards teachers that they have worked with over the years, they have teamed up with in doing so many things; I did not get that response from him. 

“I was there. He was polite, courteous, he entertained me in his office. He spoke to me and he said he did not agree with what was done. He did say that. I don’t know if he wants me to say that publicly but he is a professed Christian. If he doesn’t want to say it, he should have a problem with somebody else saying it,” she told iWitness News.

Sarwandi Ralph
Sawandi Ralph, right, and other protesters in Kingstown on Monday, March 20, 2023.

Gov’t wasting ‘critical resources’ on appeal 

And, Sawandi Ralph, who has been employed at the Customs and Excise Department for 10 years before being dismissed under the vaccine mandate, told iWitness News that the appeal is a waste of the country’s resources.

“The government was clearly in the wrong. The judgment made that clear from Esco Henry and the government is wasting the people’s resources, critical resources that we need in other aspects of Vincentian life to make St.  Vincent and the Grenadines better, to appeal a decision that is sound,” Ralph said on the picket line.

He called on the government to “stop the nonsense and make people whole. 

“They dismissed a lot of people and put a lot of people at risk of losing their homes and their livelihood.  Make things right, Mr. Gonsalves, stop the appeal,’ Ralph told iWitness News.

He said that he had obligations to meet, which he had taken on account of his employment at the Customs and Excise Department.

“I couldn’t meet some of those obligations based on being wrongfully dismissed, unlawfully dismissed,” said Ralph, who told iWitness News that since being dismissed it has been “rough”. 

“But God is good. Good is good.  We are here still. God is good,” he said.

Prostesters
Protesters in Kingstown on Monday, March 20, 2023.

Not adhering to court ruling is ‘disgusting’ – police sergeant 

Meanwhile, Rohan Giles, sergeant of police, who was one of the original claimants in the lawsuit, told iWitness News,“I am a police officer.” 

He has been a member of the constabulary for 28 years and described the ruling of the court as “very fantastic”.

“I think the judge made a perfect decision and that decision should be upheld,” Giles said. 

He said he had reported for duty since the ruling of the court and he was sent back home. 

Giles said he was told that the constabulary has to wait until the government appeals or if there is stay from the court. 

“I believe that was disgusting for not adhering to the court ruling and wanting to do what they feel to do,” he told iWitness News. 

One reply on “Dismissed workers praise God for court ruling, urge PM to end appeal”

  1. Bring the man to his knees, shut the whole country down, if he can’t hear let him feel, it is that simple,

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