Judge hearing PSA injunction demands concrete action

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: PSA president Leroy Baptiste.

THE High Court judge hearing an injunction application that temporarily stopped the Public Service Association (PSA) from holding an annual conference and general council meeting last week, while freezing the union’s assets, has made it clear the parties will not be leaving his courtroom until a clearly defined process for the future is presented.

Justice Frank Seepersad gave the warning when the matter came up before him on Monday.

Last Wednesday, he granted the injunction to disgruntled PSA members who accuse the union of failing to hold elections, conduct a financial audit, reckless spending, and various breaches of the PSA’s constitution and election rules.

He also froze the union’s bank accounts and restrained its executive from removing four luxury vehicles. They can only access the funds in the various accounts to pay salaries.

PSA members Curtis Cuffie, Demetrius Harrison, Annisha Persad, Curtis Meade and Duaine Hewitt have also filed contempt proceedings against the union’s executive for failing to carry out a previous court order.

At Monday’s hearing, Seepersad, who in 2013 also dealt with similar complaints against the PSA executive, warned parties they were not leaving his courtroom until there was a clear and defined process to ensure the PSA conducts its affairs in accordance with its constitution and orders of the court.

“The buck stops here,” Seepersad stressed.

The PSA’s executive, led by president Leroy Baptiste, resisted the injunction, saying it was not sustainable as it lacked evidence to support the freeze order, restricted the electoral process and crippled the union’s availability to conduct day-to-day affairs.

Justice Frank Seepersad

PSA attorney Rajiv Persad also said some of the defendants named in the contempt application, former president Watson Duke, two trustees, and a general secretary, were no longer in the union.

Persad also complained of not being given an opportunity to be heard before the injunction was granted. Persad also said the injunction was too wide.

However, attorney Raisa Caesar, who represents the PSA’s members, said there were previous orders by Justices Nadia Kangaloo and Devindra Rampersad in 2018 which were not complied with, so her clients were entitled to have the injunction continued while they pursue committal proceedings.

“You are in breach of the courts’ order for the past two years,” Caesar charged.

In response to the attorneys, after it was admitted that there were not many general council meetings, Seepersad took issue with the fact that elections for the relevant sections have not been held, so the general council was not properly constituted.

Seepersad said the PSA was the recognised union for the largest group of public servants in TT. He also said his court will not be moved by procedural arguments when there were fundamental issues that affected thousands of PSA members.

“Let us not dance around with these procedural issues.” He said public servants did not know what was happening with their salary increases yet “here you have an improper general council making decisions” on the purchase of vehicles..”

He described it as a Marie Antoinette-type approach, “Let them eat cake,” continuing, “but there is an obligation to the constituent (members) and you’re asking a court to countenance that?

“What is so material or important that the PSA needs four vehicles?”

At the end of submissions, Seepersad will deal with the variation of the injunction on Wednesday. The freeze order also continues until then.