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Reinstate them

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It should not have to come to this – the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) appealing to the government to re-employ three teachers who contested the last General Elections on December 13, 2010. It matters not that the three – Elvis Daniel, Kenroy Johnson and Addison Thomas – contested the elections on the slate of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), and all lost; it is the principle which is important.{{more}}

The SVGTU bases its call on the collective agreement signed between the Union and the Government in 2005. The Government points to its upholding of the principle of collective bargaining as one manifestation of its progressive pro-worker policies. The Union in turn states that the basis of the reinstatement lies in Clause 16 of the Collective Agreement, providing for union members who contest national elections and who had to resign in order to do so to be reinstated if unsuccessful at the polls and desirous of re-entering the profession. The Union’s Public Relations Officer further pointed out that such reinstatement should be at the beginning of the following term of the school year. All three teachers have apparently indicated their willingness to resume their teaching careers.

The irony is that the current Constitution of St.Vincent and the Grenadines does not allow public servants to contest General Elections unless they resign from the service. However, the Draft Constitution put before the electorate in the Referendum of November 2009 made provisions for sweeping changes in this regard. The NDP, to which all three teachers seeking reinstatement belong, had opposed the new Draft Constitution.

Be that as it may, this is certainly no excuse for not reinstating the three, and another unsuccessful NDP candidate, pharmacist Curtis Bowman. Indeed it is worthy of note that there have been precedents in such circumstances. In 2001 Mrs. Ruth Woods, a candidate for the NDP and Mrs Nicola Daize who ran on a PPM ticket were reinstated, and Elvis Daniel himself benefited from similar action in 2005. Why the difference now? The bureaucratic explanations and run-around being given certainly do no credit to an administration which has campaigned for and upheld the principles of greater democracy and people’s participation in governance. Shouldn’t all four have the right to participate in “owning the government”, as Prime Minister Gonsalves has exhorted Vincentians to do?

Additionally, this is a government which has publicly called for all Vincentians to be part of unified forward movement. It put forward the slogan “Together Now” in 2001, and following the bitterness and bruising campaigns of 2005 and 2010, not only committed itself, in word at least, to “national reconciliation”, but even instituted a Ministry with that grand name. Would this not be a clear demonstration of its commitment, by reinstating these public servants? Are we still prepared, in the 21st century, to let our valuable human resources go to waste or become victims of party politics?

Surely, such churlishness has no part in our modern society or progressive thinking. The party in power has used the state machinery to secure appointments for unsuccessful ULP candidates who had to leave the public service. It must be principled enough, sufficiently magnanimous, and demonstrably reconciliatory to let these NDP candidates exercise their right and desire to continue to serve the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.