Organisers of group pushing for GPSU reform say fearful after alleged character attacks

Jermaine Hermanstyne and Karen Van Sluytman, two organisers of the group that has been calling for the removal of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) President Patrick Yarde and some members of the union’s executive council, say attempts have been made to tarnish their reputations at their workplaces.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday at the Demerara Cricket Club, Hermanstyne said attempts are being made to try to intimidate those that are against Yarde and his team.

He said both he and Van Sluytman, based on the personal attacks on their characters, are fearful for their safety.

Hermanstyne explained that the “character assassination” began a few days ago, when letters were sent to his place of employment, aiming to tarnish his good name and he charged that it was as a result of the questions about the transparency of the GPSU elections.

Some of the union members who are against GPSU President Patrick Yarde seeking re-election. From left are Diantre Branford, Dvane St. John, Karen Van Sluytman, Jermaine Hermanstyne, Gregory Gaspar and Audrey Kellman.

He accused GPSU First Vice-President Mortimer Livan of trying to stain his integrity at a recent news conference by claiming that he was a criminal.  At a GPSU press conference, held on March 22 by Livan, copies of a letter to Hermanstyne informing of his termination from the Ministry of Home Affairs were shared to reporters. The letter, dated October 30, 2012, noted that he had been terminated upon being charged with the offence of embezzlement.

In October, 2012, Hermanstyne was charged with embezzlement by a public servant. The charge stated that he Hermanstyne was entrusted, by virtue of his employment as an Auctioneer/Field Clerk, with receipt, custody management and control of valuable security, namely motor vehicles PKK 1271 and PMM 9609, but he fraudulently disposed of them, not for public auction.

Hermanstyne yesterday noted that while he was charged, he had been found not guilty in the case. He said documents which have been taken out of his personal file at the GPSU, containing the charges, had been photocopied and were in circulation, which he said is legally wrong.

As a result, Hermanstyne said that he is seeking to take legal action.

Meanwhile, Van Sluytman also said that she had been the victim of a character attack. She said stories have been fabricated about her but she noted that she will not allow herself to be intimidated. “…We want to send a strong message to Yarde and his people, that this team is standing firmly and we will not be intimidated by any act. “Our ultimate goal is to see the removal of Yarde and those people who have no interest with public servants at heart and we know we will be victorious,” she asserted.

Van Sluytman said that the reason why Yarde is desperate to hold on to power is because he intends on using the GPSU to sustain his standard of living. She further said that the council should leave the GPSU for persons who will have fresh ideas and a new vision to take it forward, since it has been stagnant for many years.

Efforts to contact Yarde for a comment on the claims of character assassination as well as a court action challenging the executive council were futile yesterday.

Lawsuit

Meanwhile, Hermanstyne told reporters that the legal challenge to the union’s executive council was expected to be served on the GPSU president before the day was out. He said that the service will mostly likely put a stop to the GPSU elections, which are scheduled for Monday. “The injunction will stop the elections completely, there will be no elections on Monday as well as until the court action that has been brought against Yarde and the executive council. Until the matter is resolved in the court, only then fresh elections can be called,” he said, while noting that a hearing has been fixed for May 10 in the High Court.

Gregory Gaspar, Chairman of the  Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) branch of the union, moved to the High Court to have the Executive Council suspended until financial records can be presented. The application was filed last Tuesday by attorneys Nigel Hughes and Stephen Roberts.

The action asks the court to suspend and/or remove the council until the Treasurer’s reports and/or the Auditor’s reports for 2004 to 2017 are prepared and tabled at this April’s Biennial Delegates’ Conference. The Conference, according to GPSU’s rule book, signifies the “Supreme Authority of the Union,” and it is there that the body elected in this month’s elections will be installed.

Late last month, protestors had started picketing for Yarde’s removal, while saying that his extended tenure in office was unlawful and that the council was in breach of union rules.

Soon after, the GPSU held a press conference during which some council members affirmed that they will continue to back Yarde as president should he be re-elected at the upcoming elections.

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