Thursday, 16 June 2011 02:29
By caribarena news
Antigua st John's - Former chairman of the Antigua Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) Sir Gerald Watt QC has responded to a letter published in The Daily Observer last month.
The letter, titled “ABEC Has No Authority Over Public Servants,” contained what Sir Gerald labeled as misinformation, and was "inaccurate and misleading". He issued the following statement to clarify the issue.
I write in response to a letter appearing in your Newspaper edition of May 18, 2011. The article is headed ABEC HAS NO AUTHORITY OVER PUBLIC SERVANTS, and was signed Concerned Voter.
Unfortunately, while I had been told of the article when it first appeared, I had not until today (9th June) read it, hence my delay in responding. Notwithstanding the delay, I feel myself bound to reply in light of the misstatements of fact and law which are therein contained.
It has become the norm in Antigua in recent times for persons of less than moderate intellect, but who can barely speak and write simple English, to call into radio talk shows ad nauseam, and write to newspapers commenting and pontificating on matters in respect of which they have little or no knowledge or competence. Concerned Voter fits neatly into this category, and true to form hides behind a hackneyed pseudonym, thereby depriving your readers of the ability to judge the content, truthfulness, and accuracy of the article by having knowledge of the identity of the writer, and thereby being able to judge for oneself, the bona fides, knowledge, and motive of the writer.
For the record, let me state that I accept completely the right of persons of all stripes to express themselves both on the electronic and print media, they however have a corresponding obligation to acquaint themselves in respect of the facts, on which they comment and when dealing with matters which require expertise, to research the matter thoroughly before rushing into print, and misinforming the public with incorrect facts, and rendering baseless legal opinions.
Firstly, as a matter of fact and law, the employees of ABEC are not and have never been Public Officers falling under the control of The Public Service Commission (PSC) as the writer has posited, indeed prior to being employed by ABEC as far back as 2002, they were in fact non-established workers, their contract of employment and terms and conditions were governed by individual unions contracts. Non-established workers unlike Civil Servants are transferred, disciplined hired and fired by the Political Directorate through their Permanent Secretaries, and not by the PSC.
In this regard, I would draw the writers’ attention to the provisions of The Civil Service Act Cap 87 of The Laws of Antigua and Barbuda 1992 (RE) and particularly Section 3 which states as follows:
“The several public officers in the Public Service from time to time set out in the first schedule are deemed to constitute the civil service of Antigua and Barbuda which is hereby established for the purposes of this Act”
The First Schedule hereto referred lists the classification of all legal offices and positions in the Civil Service and lists them in categories. The ABEC employees in question are not now, nor have they ever held positions within that schedule.
The writer in the final paragraph of his letter poses the following rhetorical question “are Sir Gerald and the two other Commissioners who voted with him, suggesting that the PSC acted illegally in making the transfer or seconding the employees?” and expresses the wish “to be informed of the basis for such assertion”. Reading the relevant provisions of the Civil Service Act should assist him in this regard.
Concerned Voter further displays his ignorance, when he states as a fact that the employees in question were legally transferred or seconded by the PSC. Where the writer got this information is anybody’s guess, what is certain is that, “while he has listened to the debate which has raged concerning the transfers and secondments” he obviously has not understood what he has heard, neither could he have read and/or understood my correspondence on the matter.
In point of fact the affected employees were not seconded by The PSC but were illegally and arbitrarily seconded by the then Chairman Mr. Bruce Goodwin without a decision by the Commission. Here again the writer is either totally mistaken, or is deliberately misleading the Public for partisan political reasons, or perhaps is being deliberately mischievous.
Secondly, Concerned Voter needs to read, digest and understand sections 6 (1),(2), (3) & (4) of The Representation of The People (amendment) Act No. 17 of 2001 and particular sub section 4 which states:
• “The Commission shall, in the exercise of its functions act impartially and independently of any political or governmental influence and shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority (my emphasis). The Commission shall conduct its affairs in a transparent manner, consistent with good election management practice.
The undisputed facts are that Bruce Goodwin acting on the illegal mandatory recommendations of the Cabinet proceeded without approval of The Commission to second ABEC employees into positions within the public service as non established workers. This action by Goodwin is not only senseless, but is null, void and of no legal effect. ABEC is therefore duty bound to correct this patent injustice and to make this wrong right. The Commission will therefore proceed on its legal course, to what will inevitably be a successful conclusion.
Finally, I have noted the writer’s gratuitous comment that “Sir Gerald, the Supervisor of Elections and the two other Commissioners need to shut up, stop sticking their noses where they do not belong, and get on with the pressing business of the Commission-proper management of elections and the elections machinery.
Again Concerned Voter shows the depth of his stupidity, one would have thought that any one with more than two brain cells would appreciate, that the protection of the independence and integrity of the Commission, and the prevention of interference with its staff and operations by Cabinet and by extension the ruling party (UPP) is a crucial part of the Commission’s mandate. But then as the late Boldface of calypso fame so succinctly put it, WHEN YA NA KNOW, YA JUS NA KNOW.
Sir Gerald A. Watt, KCN, Q.C