A candlelight vigil outside the Public Service Association (PSA) office in Port-of-Spain on Monday night almost came to blows as opposing factions of the association clashed.
The confrontation came hours after a court ruling delayed the PSA election from its November 23 date until December 14.
Association members led by Curtis Cuffie, who is vying for the role of president, gathered in front of the PSA’s office on Abercromby Street with candles, chanting and singing.
The group was placing candles on both sides of the staircase leading into the building when a security officer emerged from the building and told them they were not allowed to place the candles there.
His words sparked an over-20 minute confrontation and police were eventually called in.
In cellphone footage from both sides which was posted on social media on Monday night, the security officer was heard saying, “You can’t put it on the step.”
One woman from the group retorted, “This is our building!”
The officer then approaches Cuffie and said, “I am saying Mr Cuffie, you all could have all your vigils, I have no problem but don’t put it on the steps.”
The arguing continued for several minutes before the security officer started removing the candles himself.
Several members from the group, including Cuffie, rush up to the security officer. The security officer pushed Cuffie away, almost starting an all-out brawl.
While the cameras continued to record, obscenities were hurled from both sides. Incumbent president Watson Duke makes an appearance soon after, standing on the staircase goading his opposition.
“Black power boy! Mind alyuh get charge for loitering, alyuh loitering right now, alyuh breaking the COVID laws,” Duke shouted.
Police officers, who were called in, stood between the two groups as the insults continued to fly before Cuffie’s team leaves.
Speaking during a campaign meeting later on the same night, Duke described his competition as “ning ning flies.”
“We heard a loud clapping and singing outside the PSA’s Abercromby Street office and when I went outside, is a bunch of ning ning flies, and these were the blue they were mixed with the blue latrine flies my words would be harsh but I will show a video just now,” Duke told his supporters.
He explained the election delay, saying an anomaly in the PSA’s electoral list was to blame.
He accused the PSA’s General Secretary of “playing politics” with the election, saying she supports one of his opponents. He said the General Secretary was the only member of the executive who could interact with the association’s election committee.
“Instead of preparing a proper list..that’s her sole duty, to ensure, to keep the records of the PSA, she falls under my charge, I asked her on several occasions, have you been keeping the record?
“I gave her extra staff to get the record good and she failed to prepare the list and when she did give the list to the PSA’s EBC, they gave them the list on hard copy, we were running on tight time and she was playing the role of some kind of ‘belle’.”
Duke said the court ruling gives the association’s election committee one additional month to get a complete list for the election.