Yearwood: Action against teachers a witch hunt

The current laws that prohibit civil servants from engaging in political activity are archaic and wrong, says Democratic Labour Party President (DLP), Dr Ronnie Yearwood.

He said that Alwyn Babb was being punished by the Government because of his decision to contest the most recent general election for the DLP alongside fellow teacher Pedro Shepherd, both of whom were unsuccessful.

Babb was found guilty of breaking Public Service rules and suspended for three months with half-pay until yearend. He was interdicted in April for six months until October 6 – with half-pay – and a formal hearing was held in June. Shepherd’s case is yet to be heard, but his full salary was restored on Friday, while the interdiction was extended to December 31.

“It is wrong what the Government has done. Given where we are this is a witch hunt, let us be clear. This is a brazen witch hunt. They are trampling the rights of a citizen who can and should be able to hold themselves for election,” Yearwood said.

“Mr Babb has done nothing wrong in wanting to serve his country and be a representative for this country and he is being punished for it and he should not be. Furthermore, you know there are other folks who campaigned. Why has no action been pursued against them but you have singled out Mr Babb and Pedro Shepherd?”

This was among the issues pertaining to education that he and chair of the party’s working group for education, Melissa Savoury-Gittens, addressed at a press conference at their headquarters in George Street, Belleville, on Saturday.

Yearwood, who was elected president in May added: “We call on all the authorities involved. We call on the President to use her offices as necessary to address this issue and bring closure to this case. You cannot have individuals hanging on for the last six months, and obviously they will be hanging on for another three month. And if this case has to go all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) we will support Mr Babb with all our technical and legal expertise and whatever else he may need to ensure there is a resolution on his side.”

Yearwood concluded that the law was on the side of the teachers in this case because there is already a precedent in the Caribbean of instances like this resulting in favour of the civil servants.

During the conference, he also addressed the controversial survey administered by the Inter-American Development to 733 first form students and asked that Minister of Education Kay McConney speak to the public. Yearwood says the law was broken and advised parents to seek legal redress. (JC)




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