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It is inappropriate for public servants to enter discussions on behalf of political parties – PM

It is inappropriate for public servants to enter discussions on behalf of political parties – PM

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says it would be inappropriate and wrong for a public servant to enter into discussions on behalf of a political party.

Gonsalves made this statement on Wednesday, while responding to a question at a press conference.{{more}}

A journalist had asked Gonsalves to respond to the condemnation by Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace of a Permanent Secretary being part of a Unity Labour Party (ULP) delegation at a meeting with the supervisor of elections on June 11.

Gonsalves said someone had told him about the matter, but he was not fully aware of the facts.

“I don’t know the facts, because I don’t take what the Leader of the Opposition says about lots of things as being factual.”

The Prime Minister, however, said it would be inappropriate and wrong for a public servant to enter discussions on behalf of a political party with any office holder as though that public servant is acting on behalf of a political party.

“That shouldn’t happen. That’s why I say inappropriate and wrong. I don’t know if it is a legal wrong, because I don’t like to speak of the law unless the provision is in front of me….” Gonsalves said.

However, according to the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader is not well placed to speak on the subject.

“I will just talk about taking the beam out of somebody eye and leaving the mote in your own,” Gonsalves said.

He said when Eustace was Prime Minister, particular offices in the public service were highly politicized with his knowledge.

“I’m not saying that he did it, but he would have known. Right now, there are elements in the NDP who actively seek to get public servants and police officers to bring information to them about the functioning of an organization and to have them play the role of ‘moles’. That’s what I am talking about. That’s also wrong. I don’t have to call any names,” he said.

He added that it takes a while for some of the freedoms in a young democracy to be properly understood and the limits respected.

General secretary of the ULP Julian Francis told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday that Dr Audrey Gittens-Gilkes, the ULP’s deputy chairperson, was present and acting in that capacity, at the meeting with the supervisor of elections on June 11.

“I don’t know a Permanent Secretary was present in the meeting. I know my deputy chairperson was present in the meeting,” Francis said.

Gittens-Gilkes is Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing, Informal Human Settlements, Land and Surveys and Physical Planning.

Gonsalves said the 1970 law, which criminalized speech by public servants, had been repealed and this had been interpreted by some public servants to mean that there are no constraints on their conduct.

“There was a one-line repeal. That has been taken by many public servants to mean that there are no constraints on them in their functioning and in their speech as being public servants. Clearly, there are constraints. Constraints which are embedded in the public service regulations or the police service regulations for that matter.”

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