Judges asked to join Judiciary workers' struggle

Judges and mag­is­trates have been in­vit­ed to join with their ju­di­cial sup­port staff to protest im­pend­ing re­struc­tur­ing with­in the Ju­di­cia­ry.

Op­po­si­tion Sen­a­tor Ger­ald Ramdeen made the call dur­ing an im­promp­tu speech to scores of Ju­di­cia­ry work­ers who gath­ered on the steps of the Hall of Jus­tice, Port-of-Spain, to con­tin­ue their protest around mid­day yes­ter­day.

“The judges could come to work every day but if there is no staff there is no Ju­di­cia­ry...judges should stand up be­cause they can­not work with­out the staff,” Ramdeen said as he was cheered on by the work­ers.

While Ramdeen claimed his pres­ence was in his ca­pac­i­ty as an at­tor­ney and not a politi­cian, he still crit­i­cised the Gov­ern­ment over its role in the con­tro­ver­sial move.

“Don’t mat­ter how you turn it or spin it, it is be­ing done at the hands of the ex­ec­u­tive. They (the Gov­ern­ment) want to con­trol the court and put their own peo­ple in­side the court,” Ramdeen claimed.

He al­so said he would sup­port the work­ers if they de­cid­ed to stay away from work, as was done last Mon­day and Tues­day.

“If it is the Hall of Jus­tice and courts around the coun­try must grind to a halt and that is the sac­ri­fice that has to be made, let it be done. This is tak­ing away the bread and but­ter of the peo­ple,” Ramdeen said.

The protest ac­tion stems from a move by the Ju­di­cia­ry to give ef­fect to sev­er­al pieces of leg­is­la­tion which were re­cent­ly en­act­ed to help re­duce back­logs in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

While the Ju­di­cia­ry has main­tained that the on­ly jobs be­ing made re­dun­dant in Sep­tem­ber, un­der the Crim­i­nal Di­vi­sion and Dis­trict Crim­i­nal and Traf­fic Courts Act, are those of clerk of the peace and as­sis­tant clerks of the peace, the Pub­lic Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion (PSA) is con­tend­ing that most sup­port staff po­si­tions will be af­fect­ed.

Speak­ing af­ter Ramdeen, PSA pres­i­dent Wat­son Duke sup­port­ed the call for ju­di­cial of­fi­cers to stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty with their staff.

“Judges should find them­selves out­side. They (the work­ers) turn the wheels of jus­tice,” Duke said.

Like Ramdeen, Duke sug­gest­ed that the re­struc­tur­ing was part of an al­leged plot to in­fil­trate the Ju­di­cia­ry.

“Any­where you go in the world, the jus­tice sys­tem is al­ways seen as a pil­lar of good gov­er­nance. It is strange that un­der the PNM, the Ju­di­cia­ry has been brought in­to dis­re­pute,” Duke said.

Al­though Duke ac­knowl­edged that At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi gave as­sur­ances that no staff would lose their jobs in the process, he said most work­ers would be forced to take con­tract em­ploy­ment while oth­ers would be as­sim­i­lat­ed in­to oth­er ar­eas with­in the pub­lic ser­vice.

“These work­ers are com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing their jobs. Even if it means that we have to sleep in jail for our rights, so be it,” Duke said.

The protest is ex­pect­ed to re­sume to­mor­row when staff are ex­pect­ed to gath­er at the same lo­ca­tion be­tween 8 am and 10 am.

“We want to see if the courts will go on with­out us or if they would have to wait on us. We will test our im­por­tance to­mor­row,” Duke said.

Reporter: Derek Achomg

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