(CARIBBEAN NEWS NOW) — Following a meeting with the Customs and Excise Branch on Tuesday, regarding the proposed new Border Management Authority and the plans to create a statutory corporation for this purpose, members of Saint Lucia’s Civil Service Association (CSA) continued to express serious concerns and accused the government of acting in bad faith.
“Notwithstanding a meeting held with the prime minister and a subsequent letter from the permanent secretary/director of finance, we have not been convinced that the government is acting in good faith,” the CSA said in a press release, adding that the following must be noted:
1. The information provided from the Cabinet Conclusion 247 0f 2018 specifically refers to the establishment of the St Lucia Border Management Authority as a Statutory Board. In the absence of an amendment to that Cabinet Conclusion to say otherwise, we believe that the intention of Government remains unchanged.
2. There have been contradictory statements made by the prime minister and other senior officials that add confusion in the minds of our members, who remain steadfast in their view that the position as stated in the Cabinet Conclusion is NOT appropriate for revenue collection and law enforcement purposes.
3. We have taken note that there are no similar structures operating in any part of the region and those other reform initiatives involving Customs have been strongly resisted in places like Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.
“Therefore the CSA and the members of the Customs and Excise Branch have stated their intention to remain resolute and will be considering all available legal options to defend its position against this ill conceived initiative,” the CSA concluded.
The CSA, the largest worker representative union on the island, has mobilized in opposition to the proposed new border control entity that is expect to result in job cuts, loss of workers’ pensions and reduced membership of the CSA.
The new border control unit is to be a merger of the existing Immigration and Customs and Excise Departments and it is understood that all existing workers will be told to resign and re-apply to the new entity.
Saint Lucia was and still is subject to sanctions imposed by the United States against the island’s security forces under the Leahy Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA).
According to a State Department spokesperson, “Security forces units subject to Leahy vetting generally include foreign militaries, reserves, police, homeland security forces such as border guards or customs police, prison guards, and other units or individual members of units authorized to use force.”