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Opposition Leader Office staff fired

By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, March 4 2010

click on pic to zoom in
NO COMMENT: Beverly Drayton, executive assistant to former Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday...
NO COMMENT: Beverly Drayton, executive assistant to former Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday...

BEVERLY DRAYTON, executive assistant to former Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday, yesterday refused to talk to this reporter over a mysterious statement faxed to media houses protesting the formal dismissal of all staff at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. Instead, she called an armed policeman seeking to eject this reporter from the premises.

“There is no press conference,” she said adding she wanted to lock up the Charles Street, Port-of- Spain office of the Opposition Leader. She then told the policeman, “What are these people doing here?”

As new Leader of the Opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar last week took over from Panday, and staff yesterday had their last day of work under their former boss.

On receiving their letters of termination of employment, the way is now clear for them to reapply for their posts under the new Opposition Leader — Persad-Bissessar. As is standard practice with a change in the holder of the post of Opposition Leader, according to Parliament officials, the staff who had all initially been hired by Panday yesterday received formal letters of termination. However an unnamed person at the Charles Street, Port-of-Spain office had sent Newsday an unsigned statement of protest, purporting to be a “Press statement by members of staff of the office of the Leader of the Opposition”. None of the staff members yesterday could say who authored that unsigned statement.

The letter claimed the dismissal of office staff was unlawful, but Clerk of the House of Representatives, Jackie Sampson Meiguel, told Newsday that it is normal practice that any change in the Leader of the Opposition is followed by the dismissal of staff who are then free to re-apply for their jobs.

This reporter spoke to seven out of the ten employees of the office who all disassociated themselves from the unsigned protest letter and said they were unfazed by having to re-apply for their jobs.

The seven officers disassociating themselves from the letter are the research specialist, information specialist, office aid, clerical assistant, janitor, driver and maid. Two other staff — the legal counsel and chief economist — were out of the office.

This reporter could not get any comment from the two remaining persons in the office — Drayton and media relations officer, Leah Mathura.

The letter claimed damages could be given for any wrongful termination. But Sampson Meiguel said the office has a small staff and they are not bound by Public Service regulations but by rules set out by the Opposition Leader. “I was told to follow normal procedures. I have to ensure that all the positions are advertised in newspapers as soon as possible, and any one is free to apply, including those who are there”.

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