NIS moving to protect employees in wake of Shivraj incident

The National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is moving to put measures in place to protect its employees in light of last week’s alleged attack on an inspection team by businessman Omprakash Shivraj and his workers, Chairman of the Scheme, Dr. Roger Luncheon said yesterday.

Dr. Luncheon at the time was responding to questions at a post-cabinet press briefing held at the Office of the President.

He said that the matter has attracted the attention of management, the Board and because of the incident, the police. He noted that he has been reliably informed that the investigations by the police would proceed subsequent to which action would be taken.

Dr. Luncheon told reporters that an internal review of what transpired has already started through meetings which were being held with the inspectors, management and the Board. He noted that there is a fairly good understanding about interventions that would be put in place to address the “concerns of the Scheme, the concerns of the Board and particularly, the concerns of field officers, not only inspectors but field officers that are obligated in defence of employees, in defence of its obligations under the Social Sector Security legislation to be out in the fields and doing inspections, doing compliance and doing visitations”.

He said that those obligations as it is evident now on the assumption that last week’s event faithfully captures what took place, can expose members of the Scheme to different forms of abuse, different forms of pressures, intimidation and the Scheme would be moving to put in place interventions to address those.

Stabroek News understands that the Board held a meeting with the affected inspectors on Tuesday and there was some indication that legal action would be taken against the businessman.

Police are yet to take action against any of those accused of the assault. Crime Chief Seelall Persaud when contacted on two occasions, the last being on Tuesday had said that he was unaware of the incident. He had also stressed that threats and assault are handled at the level of the police station.

This newspaper was told that since the incident, efforts have not been made to contact the businessman who is constructing a Housing Scheme at New Providence, East Bank Demerara. It is at this location that the incident occurred.

The NIS in a press release had said that  the inspection team, which was headed by Senior Inspector Nicholas Yearwood, and included Inspectors Regan Baxter, Carolyn Peters and Leslie Allen, who were accompanied by driver Horace Richards, “came under attack” while visiting the construction site. The officers, it said, were conducting routine exercises and visited the site to execute a full compliance check.

During the visit, the officers impounded for inspection three wages records and time sheets. As a result, NIS said, they were surrounded by Shivraj and several of his employees, who prevented them from leaving the property. “Mr Shivraj and his employees held the officers hostage whilst using threats and force in demanding the return of the impounded documents which were forcefully wrenched from the hands of Inspector Regan Baxter,” it added.

The release said that the matter was later reported to the Providence Police Station.

Shivraj when contacted had dismissed the allegations as lies before saying that it was the NIS employees who were the aggressors.

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