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Apr 3, 2018

Tensions Revealed in Senate Select Committee as Workers “Sick Out” over Favoritism

Eamon Courtenay

Concerns were raised that dividing the Immigration Department as proposed in the bills could invite further mischief in a department already badly bruised by the 2011-2013 scandal discussed during last year’s Senate Special Select Committee public hearings. At those hearings, it was abundantly clear that the department had little in human resources to keep it functioning without taking into account existing bureaucracy. Senator Eamon Courtenay touched on this in asking for the bills to be held back. But ranking Government member of the Committee Dr. Carla Barnett said she was not comfortable with waiting.


Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“Why is it necessary to have two directors? Why is it not permitted, why is it not advisable that there be one Director, with two deputies of the two sub-departments within one Department; there is no justification or explanation for that. We just debated the General Revenue and Appropriation Bill; is there any provision in the Bill for the post of a new Director – we’ll have two, so there’ll be an additional director. Senator Hulse says there is no additional staff so I take it you mean promotion. However it is, my question is why is there no provision in the Budget for this new arrangement of the Immigration Department?  Mr. President, it is because – and we had copious testimony on this issue – because the left hand in Immigration did not know what the right hand was doing, it opened itself to abuse. We have testimony of recommendations from experts in Immigration as to how to ensure that information flows throughout the Department, to ensure that some of the irregularities and the illegalities are not repeated. Nevertheless, we come here, before hearing from the Senate Special Select Committee, with a proposal for a bifurcation. I want to put on public record our concern on this side. Re-registration is on the horizon; the question of issuance of nationality in that process is going to be an issue. An election is not too far off, Mr. President. I would urge my colleagues for us to make haste slowly, to defer this bifurcation and amendment until the Senate Select Committee has completed its work and made its report.”

 

Carla Barnett

Dr. Carla Barnett, U.D.P. Senator

“I am hesitant to delay an important process for another process that we don’t seem to know when it’s going to be done. I earlier had a conversation with the Chairman, and I don’t really want to have too much to say about it here, because we haven’t discussed it as a Committee. But I am really very uncomfortable with the fact that we have not been able to put a draft of the report in front of us for consideration, so we at least can have a timeline for completion when we see how much work is there to be done on the draft. So unless I know that, I can’t say that I am willing to wait until that report is completed before I deal with this, because to me, that’s just not rational.”

 

In related news, reports reaching News Five indicated that as many as fourteen officers of the Immigration Department staged a “sick-out” today. We were unable to reach Minister of State Beverly Williams and Director of Immigration Diana Locke said she was on leave herself and not aware of what was going on. The issue, we are told, is one of promotions within the department. Some officers feel they are being overlooked for those with lesser qualifications. A meeting had been planned but no progress was apparently reported. According to Locke, the matter is now with the Ministry as opposed to the Department and interviews for key positions are scheduled.

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