The eligibility of the nominiation of Oswald Robinson to contest for the presidency of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) has been called into question, even as members prepare to cast their votes today in this year’s election.
The incumbent has dismissed the claims, which are that his nomination is in breach of the union’s constitution, by saying it is “just spite and a personal attack on me”.
The Union’s elections are scheduled for today and tomorrow, February 22 and February 23, when members will vote on candidates nominated for the positions of president and vice president.
Robinson, the incumbent president, is being challenged by dismissed teacher, Nikeisha Williams for the top position, as he seeks to secure another term in office, his sixth since he was first elected as president in 2001.
But Phillip Jacobs, a member of the union’s East Kingstown Branch, claims that Robinson, who is a retired teacher, is not eligible to be nominated and elected to office under the union’s constitution.
“During the last election cycle of the SVGTU I was sorely disappointed to discover that there were persons who were duly nominated and elected to office but were, according to the constitution, not eligible to be successfully nominated to stand for office but were nevertheless elected,” Jacobs wrote in a letter dated February 8 and addressed to Kenneth Burgin, the Chairman of the Elections Committee.
“To wit, I hereby challenge the nomination of Oswald Robinson for the position of President of the SVGTU which is contrary to article 3, subsection 3.2.1 and subsection 3.2.2 of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union Constitution.”
Article 3 of the Union’s constitution speaks to the membership and subscription of the organisation and three categories of members are outlined in Article 3.2: full, associate and honorary.
Article 3.2.1 notes that “a full member is a member in good financial standing as outlined in (3.2) and Is entitled to all the rights and benefits of union membership, including the right to vote and to hold office. A full member must be actively involved in teaching, except if employed by the Union or if he/she did not voluntarily give up his/her job as a teacher.
On the other hand, associate membership is granted to persons falling into four specific categories, one of which is “retired teachers”.
As outlined in Article 3.2.2, associate members are entitled to services of the union and are free to take part in its activities.
They are empowered to vote at meetings but cannot hold office. Associate members are also required to pay the current dues.
Robinson has retired from the service since 2018. He was elected as president in 2020 and has served in that position for the past two years.
“That person does not have the authority to interpret the constitution. The constitution itself says that it is the National Executive that interprets the constitution and if there is anything contrary, the only other structure in the union that can interpret the constitution is the General Meeting,” Robinson told SEARCHLIGHT when contacted yesterday in relation to the matter.
He continued that “the person who wrote that (letter) does not know the constitution because the constitution says once you are in good financial standing, you have a right to vote and to hold office. It says you can do that for three consecutive terms, six straight years.”
The union president said that he is a full member of the union and alleged that the author of the letter has been “attacking me from day one”.
Robinson maintained that he is entitled to run for office, as outlined in Article 4 of the union’s constitution, as the section referred to by Jacobs only “tell you what are entitled to” as a member of the organisation.
According to Article 4.4.2, of the constitution “any member in good financial standing shall be eligible to hold office on the National Executive and shall be eligible for re-election at the end of that term of office”.
The incumbent president also referenced several retired members of the union, who have held substantive posts throughout the years.
“…if you telling me that I am not eligible, then it means that all those years I served as president are null and void; all those cheques I’ve signed in the union’s name, all the meetings I’ve attended, all the documents of the union…” Robinson queried.
“So it’s a personal attack on me. Everything, they are trying to get rid of me…The guy is not sober in his mind because if he is sober in his mind, he would not behave like this because this is not something for the public domain…this is an internal matter.”
He said further that he was nominated fairly by members and asked to run for office, and his nomination would not have been accepted if that were not the case.
Robinson further suggested that if Jacobs has an issue, then he can “file an injunction in the High Court and I will go there and meet him”.
All indications are that this year’s elections will move forward as planned.
Ballot boxes were being dropped off at schools yesterday in preparation for the beginning of the elections today. Members not at schools have been advised to vote at the union office at McKies Hill.