October 14, 2005
Public Servants happy ‘backward’ Bill repealed

The Public Officers Conditions of Employment Act, Chapter 208 of the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been repealed. The bill to repeal the act went through all three stages in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, October 11, piloted by Minister with responsibility for the Public Service, Sir Vincent Beache.

From all accounts, public servants are pleased with the development. Speaking from the Public Service Union Headquarters at McKie’s Hill, President Margaret London said, “We are indeed happy. It was long overdue!” {{more}}

Over the years, public servants have called on successive administrations to repeal the bill which has long been regarded by many as backward and a violation of the constitutional rights of public servants. The bill came into effect on 12th October, 1971. And now, it seems that politicians on both sides of the house share the view of the public servants.

When he introduced the bill, Sir Vincent said, in his opinion, the act imposed certain restrictions on the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, and he was convinced in his own mind that the act was in contravention to the constitution.

Reading from the repealed act, the Public Service Minister quoted, “No public officer shall act as an editor of any newspaper, magazine, periodical, etc., should not contribute to, whether anonymously or otherwise, or publish in any newspaper, magazine or other medium of information, or cause to be published in the manner in St. Vincent and the Grenadines or elsewhere, anything which may reasonably be regarded as information or expression of opinion on any matter that may be of a political or administrative nature.”

Sir Vincent however cautioned that even though those restrictions were now lifted, citizens were still bound by other laws against making statements which maligned persons, or could affect the defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health of the country.

Leader of the Opposition, the Arnhim Eustace in support of the bill, stated that he had already made a public statement on the matter some months ago. “I even went so far as to regret that the past NDP administration did not (repeal the act), so I have no difficulty with the situation as outlined here for the repeal of the act,” Eustace said.

He continued, “I am in agreement with the Hon. Minister who introduced the bill to repeal the act that in terms of the constitution, it was a matter of concern, in that we really needed to do something about it.”