Judges and magistrates have been invited to join with their judicial support staff to protest impending restructuring within the Judiciary.
Opposition Senator Gerald Ramdeen made the call during an impromptu speech to scores of Judiciary workers who gathered on the steps of the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, to continue their protest around midday yesterday.
“The judges could come to work every day but if there is no staff there is no Judiciary...judges should stand up because they cannot work without the staff,” Ramdeen said as he was cheered on by the workers.
While Ramdeen claimed his presence was in his capacity as an attorney and not a politician, he still criticised the Government over its role in the controversial move.
“Don’t matter how you turn it or spin it, it is being done at the hands of the executive. They (the Government) want to control the court and put their own people inside the court,” Ramdeen claimed.
He also said he would support the workers if they decided to stay away from work, as was done last Monday and Tuesday.
“If it is the Hall of Justice and courts around the country must grind to a halt and that is the sacrifice that has to be made, let it be done. This is taking away the bread and butter of the people,” Ramdeen said.
The protest action stems from a move by the Judiciary to give effect to several pieces of legislation which were recently enacted to help reduce backlogs in the criminal justice system.
While the Judiciary has maintained that the only jobs being made redundant in September, under the Criminal Division and District Criminal and Traffic Courts Act, are those of clerk of the peace and assistant clerks of the peace, the Public Services Association (PSA) is contending that most support staff positions will be affected.
Speaking after Ramdeen, PSA president Watson Duke supported the call for judicial officers to stand in solidarity with their staff.
“Judges should find themselves outside. They (the workers) turn the wheels of justice,” Duke said.
Like Ramdeen, Duke suggested that the restructuring was part of an alleged plot to infiltrate the Judiciary.
“Anywhere you go in the world, the justice system is always seen as a pillar of good governance. It is strange that under the PNM, the Judiciary has been brought into disrepute,” Duke said.
Although Duke acknowledged that Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi gave assurances that no staff would lose their jobs in the process, he said most workers would be forced to take contract employment while others would be assimilated into other areas within the public service.
“These workers are committed to protecting their jobs. Even if it means that we have to sleep in jail for our rights, so be it,” Duke said.
The protest is expected to resume tomorrow when staff are expected to gather at the same location between 8 am and 10 am.
“We want to see if the courts will go on without us or if they would have to wait on us. We will test our importance tomorrow,” Duke said.
Reporter: Derek Achomg