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Public servants ‘get on bad’
The Red House is now the residence of public servants and they will move only if they are offered “double digits.” This statement was made by Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke yesterday on the grounds of the Red House, Knox Street, Port-of-Spain. Duke and members of the PSA executive led a large crowd of public servants in a march beginning at the Financial Complex and culminating at the Red House around 2.30 pm. The PSA warned that protest action would take place every day until March 31.
However, before settling on the compound of the Red House, the group had earlier created chaos outside the Central Bank of T&T for close to two hours when they chanted, beat old iron, threw bits of paper in the air and even slammed on the entrance and exit glass door. Police arrived on the scene and tried to dissuade Duke and his men, but to no avail. Superintendent Brian Headley tried to reason with Duke as he sat on the floor locked in arms with his comrades blocking the main entrance and exit.
Duke said he was ready for “ah lock up.” The officers, including a female officer formed a barricade between the protesters and the glass door, enduring the numerous abusive chants directed to the People’s Partnership Government. Duke and PSA’s general secretary Nixon Callender told the crowd they were prepared to spend the night on the floor. Callender asked the public servants if they were in for the long haul. The crowd subsequently shifted its location to the Red House while the Senate was sitting.
Police even prevented the media from entering the compound. One said: “Due to the present situation, we are not allowing anyone inside.” In a hoarse voice, Duke told the media the Chief Personnel Officer had made a new offer–2-1-2 per cent, with a backpay of $2,000. The last offer was 0-0-5 or 1-2-2 per cent. Duke said public servants were not idiots. Asked how long he was prepared to stay at the Red House, Duke said: “We have just moved inside. “This is now my residence,” he said.
“This is now the residence of public servants.” He also ordered 20 pizzas for the group. Duke said yesterday was the beginning of the revolution to bring about change. He said they would sleep on the steps and “they (police) can’t stop us from sleeping.” Duke also said vagrants urinated and defecated in Port-of-Spain all the time and there were no reasons they couldn’t do the same. Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of Police Jack Ewatski who stopped briefly before heading off to a meeting on St Vincent Street said the situation appeared to be under control. Ewatski said: “We have a strong presence of police just keeping an eye on what appears to be a very peaceful demonstration right now.”
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