Pandemonium at T&T public service association meet

(Trinidad Express) Blows were passed and several obscenities and threats were exchanged during a fracas among members of the Public Services Association (PSA) at their Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, headquarters yesterday.

The melee occurred after several suspended executive members stormed the monthly meeting of the union’s general council moments after they were debarred from entering the building.

PSA president Watson Duke appeared to be taken aback by the sudden presence of the suspended members which included general secretary Oral Saunders, industrial relations officer Joanne Semper-Caprietta, and first vice president Rosanna Robinson.

As members of both factions squared off, several scuffles broke out with even members of the media being manhandled by those in support of Duke who also found himself involved in a shouting match with PSA member Wouldron Lelouison. Both men had to be restrained.

Duke and other members of the general council eventually left through a back exit.

This prompted the remaining members to elect Ricky Cedeno to chair the remainder of the meeting.

On one occasion the meeting came to a halt when Jamaat-al-Muslimeen member Salim Muwakil, accompanied by a security guard, Duke and general secretary Nixon Callender and others, attempted to bring an end to the meeting saying it was unconstitutional.

Attempting to explain his presence there, Muwakil said he is a PSA member and was called by Duke to provide security.

“The president told me he was disrespected,” Muwakil said.

Another clash ensued with shouts of “Watson, you are a dog” and “Watson, you are a disgrace to the PSA” filling the air.

Police officers arrived on the scene and broke up another scuffle between PSA members Christopher Wilson and Patrick Walker. One female member was brought to tears and had to be consoled.

With the situation being brought under control, a number of motions were passed, including a motion to reinstate the members suspended by Duke.

Speaking at a news conference at the end of the meeting, Cedeno said the general council, as a consequence of numerous allegations of impropriety made against Duke, took a decision to have him answer those allegations at a special meeting of the general council.

This meeting is scheduled to be held on August 26 at the head office at 9 a.m.

“In accordance with our constitution, he will be provided with written statements of all of the allegations that have been made and he will be afforded every opportunity to defend himself at that meeting,” Cedeno said.

“Once that has been done, a properly constituted general council would examine these things and make a decision,” he said.

Asked what would happen if Duke and others fail to appear before the general council next Friday, Cedeno said the general council may have little choice but to take action as it sees fit.

“The actions that could be taken are clearly outlined in our constitution and we will be guided by that.

“It could be a warning, reprimand or caution, suspension of membership, expulsion from membership, suspension from any office in the association or section, removal from office and a ban from holding office in the association,” he added.

With the lifting of the suspensions, Saunders, Semper-Caprietta, Robinson and others have been instructed to report for duty at the union’s head office this morning.

Cedeno said Duke, if he wishes to take the matter up in a court of law, could do so.

“Our rules are what bind us and a court could only examine to see whether there was any breach of these rules which our members have approved,” he added.


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