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PSU President Defends Public Officer Who Hung Up on PM Briceno

The Public Service Union (PSU) came out in defence of the forest officer who hung up the phone on the Prime Minister, John Briceno. As we’ve reported, the Prime Minister left a meeting to personally call and speak to the forest officer who had confiscated plants imported through the northern border by Diani Chan of Botanical Garden by Roselyn. The forest officer refused to release the plants and, according to the PM, the officer was rude and hung up the phone. In an interview with the media on Saturday, PM Briceno said that he would speak to the “minister” about the officer’s behavior. Information to Love News suggests that moves are being considered to build a case against the public officer and have him, and two other quarantine officers who showed support, suspended and later terminated. But not so fast, says PSU President Dean Flowers. According to Flowers, regulation sixty-one of the Public Service Regulations says that a public officer shall not make representation to a member of the National Assembly with respect to the public officer’s terms and conditions.
Dean Flowers, President, Public Service Union (P.S.U): I don’t know what case of insubordination will be put forward in an attempt to discipline or as you suggested is leaning more to dismiss these officers. No member of the National Assembly is authorised to give instruction to public officers in the execution of their duties. Similarly, in the execution of their duties and as it relates to their terms and conditions of service, no officer should be consulting with ministers. The Public Service is supposed to be insulated from political interference. The Prime Minister, while he may have had all the rights to request to have a conversation with the officer, I don’t know that he is authorised to be issuing instructions to any public officer outside of his C.E.O.s and so, no public officer should be entertaining instructions from any minister. The Prime Minister also boldly, boldly hinted in his interview that this is not the first time that he’s doing this. In this case, I want to applaud the Forest Officer and the Quarantine Officers of BAHA who clearly saw that there was something improper here. That certain species were not authorised to be imported and they did what they had to do. The fact that they seem to now be coming under political attack is unfortunate and as members of the Public Service Union and as the recognised representatives of these officers, the Public Service Union has a duty and an obligation to ensure that they are treated fairly and that no punitive measures are taken against them.”

Flowers says that the officer is a long-standing member of the PSU. He says that whether or not the officer exhibited disrespectful behavior against the Prime Minister, the PSU supports the officer in executing his duties.
Dean Flowers, President, Public Service Union (P.S.U): Whether or not there was disrespect issued to the Prime Minister by way of the tone of the officer or by words used, I cannot comment on that because I did not hear what the officer said. I am simply aware that the officer was never called by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was speaking to, supposedly, the mother-in-law that he referred to in his interview and he requested that the mother-in-law, if it is that her phone that called him, or he had called. He wanted to speak to the officer via that phone and the officer simply refused to take the phone because he was carrying out his instructions which was to confiscate those plants and destroy them. I understand the officer was occupied mobilising the plants and so he didn’t felt it appropriate or fit, and rightfully so in accordance with section 61 of the regulation to entertain instructions as I understand it. We are a signatory to a convention against the trading of certain species of plants and we have no other than a minister saying, yeah we are a signatory to that but we haven’t incorporated that into law as yet so we aren’t paying any attention to that. We will do what we want, to hell with our international partners because essentially that is what he implied, that because we have failed to adopt this in law, we can disregard the fact that we are a signatory to a convention with international partners who expect that we will cooperate in the best interest of the region and international trade where trading of flora and fauna is concerned.”