Case brought by teachers against State to be heard
December 17, 2013
Case brought by teachers against State to be heard

High Court judge Gertel Thom yesterday dismissed an application made by the lawyers for the State to have the claim for three teachers,{{more}} who resigned their positions to contest the December 13, 2010 General Elections for the New Democratic Party (NDP), struck out.

According to Jomo Thomas, legal counsel for Elvis Daniel, Addison “Bash” Thomas and Kenroy Johnson, Justice Thom gave her ruling on the matter after the application was submitted by Richard Williams, counsel for the State.

The claim was filed by the teachers on February 20, 2013 and the respondents’ application for the matter to be struck out, filed in April.

“The registry will put the matter back on for hearing and the judge will put together a schedule,” Thomas told SEARCHLIGHT.

“All she did was she gave a judgment, the arguments were heard months ago,” he continued.

Williams, in making his submission, argued that the claimants having already resigned, cannot compel the defendants to re-instate them to their original teaching posts.

When arguments were heard earlier in the year, Williams submitted that it is only the Parliament of St Vincent and the Grenadines, by two thirds in the House, which can permit a public officer to be eligible to be elected as a representative. He further noted that it is only Parliament that can permit public officers to contest elections.

Williams described Article 16 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as “unfortunate,” as it directly contravenes the entrenched provisions of the Constitution.

“Article 16, in its clear meaning and reading, amounts to the exercise of power by the Executive, which it does not have.

That power to allow public officers to run for elections is solely in the hands of a two thirds majority of Parliament,” Williams argued then.

According to Williams, the Public Service Commission has been given the sole right, by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution, to determine who it appoints to the public service. He said the claimants’ affidavits reflect, that on the teachers’ re-application, the Commission cited there were no vacancies at the time.

But Grenadian attorney Ruggles Ferguson, attorney for the claimants, is adamant that Article 16 does not offend Section 26 of the constitution.

Ferguson said, prior to the general elections in 2010, as required by the Representation of the People’s Act, Nomination Day was November 26, 2010.

“The resignation letters from the claimants were done on November 24, two days before Nomination Day. The application for leave, pursuant to Article 16 of the Agreement, would have been made on November 14 and 15th by the three applicants…,” Ferguson said.

The attorney said, following the application for leave and receiving no responses, the applicants went to the Public Service Commission and it was then on November 23, leave was denied, forcing the men’s resignation.

“Article 16 embraces and enhances democratic rights provided by the Constitution. The fundamental individual rights and democracy in the Constitution.”

He added that the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not say anything about teachers not being able to contest elections and that there are no disciplinary infractions if one contests an election.

Ferguson said Section 11 of the Constitution gives the fundamental right to freedom of association, which states: “Except with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association.”

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace on the NDP sponsored radio program “New Times,” said yesterday that he welcomed the decision.

“The three teachers who were dismissed after the last general elections, the court has ruled that they have a case,” Eustace said.

“The government has a case to answer and therefore that case will continue in the High Court.”

He said that the decision had been long in coming and although the system was moving slowly, it showed that it was working.

“And I feel comfortable and very pleased that this has happened and that the fight will continue,” Eustace said.(DD)