Victory for Elwood Watts?

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

While I am extremely happy that Mr. Elwood Watts has prevailed against the injustice that is inherent in the Public Service: I am concerned that the resolution of this matter would create another set of problems.

I have no more knowledge of the facts of the case than what I have read in reports in the Nation. However, it is my view that the outcome flies in the face of the very same principle that Mr. Watts was seeking to address. My understanding is that the Chief Personnel Officer through her lawyer informed the court that Mr. Watts would be appointed Senior Crown Counsel. That decision might please an extremely hardworking and deserving Elwood Watts but also, it would let others off the hook for their roles in this shameful affair.

My first concern is how did the recommendation, for the original appointment, reach the Governor-General without first going through the mandatory procedure set out in the Recruitment and Employment Code for the Public Service. The code, at paragraph 2 states:

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Supreme Court Of Judicature Marston Gibson Amendment Act?

Submitted by Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

The Saturday Sun of March 20, 2011, reported that the House of Assembly passed an amendment to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act just after mid-night. That amendment partly paved the way for Mr. Marston Gibson to become the next Chief Justice of this country.

The lead-up to the amendment generated a considerable amount of controversy, and I would have been interested in the debate. Unfortunately, it took place after my bedtime. Many persons in this country rightly expressed abhorrence when they realized that the amendment was being done to facilitate one predetermined candidate. Their abhorrence would have been more acute if they were aware that it is normal practice to change qualifications to enable the appointment of individuals, who did not make the grade.

This matter with the Chief Justice only came to light because the qualifications for that post are found in the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, and any changes would require amendments to that Act. On the other hand, in the Public Service, when Government wants to change the qualifications to facilitate a particular individual, the Minister for the Civil Service merely signs an order to amend the Civil Establishments (Qualifications) Order, which is generally done in secret. In most cases, public officers only find out about the changes when they are about to apply for a senior post or when they are overlooked for promotion.

By way of example, when a vacancy occurred in the office of Chief Marshal, the candidates required: “Approved qualification in Public Administration AND Para-legal Studies” among other things. The qualifications were changed by replacing “AND” with “OR” in order to facilitate the preferred candidate.

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