PRESS STATEMENT – Since the announcement of protest action by the Saint Lucia Fire Service Association, sections of the public have attempted to cast blame at the Government of Saint Lucia for what they describe as “failure to deal with the findings of a commission of inquiry”.
Despite pronouncements made by the Association and others, the Government has attempted to address the lingering concerns, but has done so within the framework of the law. While all sides are interested in a speedy resolution to the situation, it is vital that all rights are respected and due process is followed.
Further to concern expressed by the Saint Lucia Fire Association, the Saint Lucia Trade Union Federation (TUF) has written to Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony in an effort to “seek a solution to the issues in the Saint Lucia Fire Service.”
On August 11, 2014, Prime Minister Anthony responded and explained that the political directorate has done its part to ensure that the concerns raised were investigated. Dr. Anthony wrote,
“The Report and its supporting evidence was forwarded by the Ministry of the Public Service to the Public Service Commission with the recommendation that the Commission institutes disciplinary action based on the entirety of the evidence placed before the Commission of Inquiry. It is my understanding that the Public Service Commission has commenced that process.”
Dr. Anthony further explained that it is not the responsibility the Cabinet to take action against the Chief Fire Officer or any other officer of the public service, but that of the Public Service Commission. The Commission, he explained, is an independent organization. The Prime Minister wrote,
“I wish, however, to emphasize a point repeatedly made to the Fire Service Association. From time to time, the Association requests the Political Executive to take action against the incumbent Chief Fire Officer. The fact is that the Public Service Commission was set up in our Constitution as an independent and autonomous body to protect, or if you prefer, insulate public officers from partisan political pressure. When a call is made to the Government to intervene, then, in effect, the Political Executive is being asked to use its political authority to resolve an issue which properly falls within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. This is a fundamental breach of the constitution. It seems to me that the decision of the courts, particularly in the case of Ausbert Regis v. Attorney General of Saint Lucia is neither understood nor appreciated. The Government cannot be called upon to interfere in disciplinary matters and when it does, it is then criticized for political interference. Likewise, it cannot take action to usurp the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission and thereby make itself vulnerable to legal action by an affected party.”
Notwithstanding, the Prime Minister has welcomed a suggestion of a Tri-Partite Committee to review and recommend measures to assist in implementing the recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry. Recommendations on the composition of that committee were made to the TUF.
In the meantime, the Government of Saint Lucia continues to review and monitor the operations of the Saint Lucia Fire Service, to avert major disruptions to the operations of the airports and to ensure the provision of basic emergency services to the population.