DO NOT expect contempt proceedings against president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke to be handled “expeditiously” as his attorney, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, yesterday said the “full gamut” of the law will be used to protect him.
However, if Minister of Labour Errol McLeod has the proposed jail term against Duke “taken off the table”, Mendes said he may proceed differently.
Mendes made the statements as he addressed the Industrial Court in Port of Spain.
Contempt proceedings against the PSA, Duke and Purdy Babwah, a member of the Public Service and a public officer at the Immigration Division, continued in the First Court yesterday.
Yesterday was day two in the contempt proceedings.
At 10 a.m., president
of the Industrial Court Deborah Thomas-Felix
and judges Larry Achong, Albert Aberdeen, Kyril Jack and Kathleen George-Marcelle entered the courtroom.
The Minister of Labour was represented by Senior Counsel Russell Martineau and attorneys Addison Khan and Derek Ali.
The PSA, Duke and Babwah were represented by Mendes and attorneys Michael Quamina, John Heath, and Anthony Bullock.
Last Friday’s session ended with Chief Immigration Officer Gerry Downes on the witness stand being cross-examined by Mendes.
Yesterday’s session was expected to resume with Downes being cross-
examined by Mendes.
Mendes however said he could not continue the cross-examination of Downes yesterday as he had only recently received a report that would be beneficial in this regard.
The document in question is a report from the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) entitled the “Proposal for Indoor Air Quality Assessment at #67 Frederick Street”.
Mendes said the report would impact the structure of his entire cross-examination of Downes.
Mendes said some pages from the appendix of the report was missing.
He said he would
prefer not to continue the
cross-examination of Downes until the document is studied.
Mendes said it would also affect the cross-examination of the permanent secretary at the Ministry of National Security, Carl Francis.
Ali and law clerk Cleon Brewster yesterday took the witness stand in the matter and had their affidavits tendered into evidence.
Thomas-Felix said the Industrial Court had to adjourn all cases on its timetable, in order to hear Duke’s contempt matter yesterday.
Both Martineau and Thomas-Felix said contempt matters are normally dealt with expeditiously.
Mendes said if that is the case, it is a “wrong practice”.
Mendes said his clients are facing prison and he will use all adequate facilities to prepare a defence for them.
“If that (the prison term) is taken off the table we may proceed differently,” Mendes said.
Martineau said he had nothing to take off the table and he was present not as a prosecutor but in order to defend the court’s dignity.
The matter had been adjourned to Tuesday.
The entire day on Tuesday and Wednesday has been set aside to deal with the contempt proceedings, as well as half-day on Thursday.
McLeod pursues contempt proceedings
Labour Minister Errol McLeod is pursuing contempt proceedings against Duke and is asking the Industrial Court to have him “committed to prison” for violating the injunction, ordering him not to take industrial action.
According to the document filed by the claimant, the Minister of Labour is asking that Duke “be committed to prison for contempt and abetting the breach of the order” of the Industrial Court given on July 3, 2014, “by calling out and/or instructing staff employed at the Immigration Department at Frederick St, Port of Spain, and San Fernando to sign in and leave their jobs without working and by telling them that the office is shut down until whenever.”