Two Public Services Association (PSA) executive members, Sharlene Suchit-Dwarika, the first general secretary, and vice president Ian Murray, have been suspended from duty with immediate effect and with full pay until the next general council meeting.
Suchit-Dwarika and Murray – vying for the vice president and president positions respectively, under Murray's Labour Warriors team – received suspension letters from PSA president Watson Duke on Thursday morning.
Both Murray and Suchit-Dwarika were instructed to give up all possessions of the association and vacate their offices.
This move came three days after Justice Nadia Kangaloo ordered the November 23 PSA election postponed after she detected irregularities in the final voters’ list presented by the election committee. Since then the executive members have been blaming each other for the issue.
But before the decision to postpone the elections was made, Murray, who was once apart of Duke's Game Changers team, has been butting heads with the PSA leader accusing him publicly of fraud and lack of transparency and accountability. In response, Duke said Murray's comments were untrue before describing Murray as a “Judas” who after working with him in handling all the union's affairs, has now cast aspersions on his leadership.
The men, who were once allies, have been going head to head after Murray withdrew his support from Duke and his Game Changers team and announced his own team months ago.
A recent clash between the two happened over two weeks ago when Duke endorsed the Drugs Sou-Sou (DSS) scheme administered by Kerron Clarke and threatened to take action against the government if the $7 million sou-sou funds seized in an ongoing police investigation were not released.
During a press conference to address the DSS issue, Duke said that the matter was a concern for the association because many of its members have invested funds in the scheme and were left frustrated by the situation. In a rebuttal, Murray bashed Duke for involving PSA in a DSS private matter.
Then on Wednesday, after the court ordered the election be postponed due to issues with the voters' list, Murray told Newsday he blamed Duke for not ensuring all was in order for the election to run smoothly. Duke said the general secretary, who is responsible for compiling and validating the list in accordance with Article 40, subsection two, of the PSA Constitution, had sufficient time to complete it.
Murray was then suspended for failing to attend work between the hours 8 am and 4 pm, Monday-Friday and for neglecting his duties.
Before he was suspended, Murray was instructed to use two hours during any three of his working days to campaign. His letter said he was supposed to let the PSA president know what days and times he would be using the time allotted to him to focus on his campaign, but this was not done.
The letter said Murray also failed to submit a weekly itinerary to the office of the PSA president on or before 10 am on Mondays.
Duke told Suchit-Dwarika he had instructed her on October 23 to submit agendas and signed minutes of all meetings of the PSA executive, general council and conference of delegates from December 2013 to October 23 this year, by November 6.
The letter said no itinerary or reports had been submitted since October 23 and neither Duke nor office administrators received the requested packages.
“The request for these submissions was made so that decisions taken at these meeting become part of the ongoing auditing process at the PSA undertaken by the Registrar of the Trade Unions through their appointed auditors coupled with the PSA’s need to ensure that decisions made at the executive and general council level are properly exercised and brought before the Conference of Delegates to be ratified,” the letter said.
Since Suchit-Dwarika allegedly failed to complete this task, the operations of the PSA were said to have been left in jeopardy, “thereby causing PSA to become the butt of jokes regarding its accountability and transparency within the PSA elections.”
During a Facebook live hours after the letters were delivered to the members, Duke said Suchit-Dwarika and Murray "have to understand rules are there for a reason" and he was left with no other choice than to suspend them.
He said he was left disturbed by the way the Murray and Suchit-Dwarika neglected PSA duties to focus on campaigning for the election.
"I continue to be the president of the PSA and I continue to work to deal with the grievances of the workers and what are their interest and welfare and how we can be better able to serve. Every day I come here before 7 pm and I can't have colleagues drawing over $20,000 and $30,000 a month and they come to work and I don't know what they are doing when they are supposed to give an account to me. This happens nowhere and I'm not taking it from any of them."
Repeated efforts to contact Murray and Suchit-Dwarika for a comment on the matter were unsuccessful.
Deputy general secretary Felisha Thomas will act as general secretary.
The PSA election is three years overdue. In November 2017 the election was stopped after contender Solomon Gabriel and his Team Fixers got an injunction through a lawsuit challenging the election process, particularly issues with the voters' list. The court ordered the election committee to provide a list that's accurate and included all eligible voters. But the general council resigned soon after and the irregularities weren't fixed. The election was pushed to November 2020, but one week before election day issues on the voters' list surfaced once again.
The general council was sent back to correct the errors and once issues with the list are settled the election will happen on December 14.