Sunday 27 September, 2020

Duke slams ‘trumped up’ sedition charge

Public Services Association (PSA) President Watson Duke believes a sedition charge recently brought against him has more to do with him standing up for public servants in the face of criticism from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley than any seemingly seditious statements he uttered.

The union boss, who announced at a media conference on Monday that he would be stepping down as the PSA President said he found it curious that the charge followed statements he made firing back at the Prime Minister for his suggestion that public servants were not as productive as they should be.

Duke also suggested that the sedition charge in part came about as his political party, the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), has been taking away support from the Rowley-led People’s National Movement (PNM) in Tobago.

“This, as you know by now, had nothing to do with sedition or ‘inciteful’ words. Watson Duke has always spoken one way through his entire career as a trade unionist. I have always spoken strong, I have never mixed my language; I have never watered it down.”

“That speech was just another speech that was not televised. But somehow they took it and they are now trying to make that speech public,” he continued.

“This entire charge was as a result of statements made to the Prime Minister on the Thursday before that Monday. Obviously, that triggered it,” Duke said.

Recalling the events leading up to his detention by police and the subsequent charge laid against him, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority leader complained that he and his family were treated unfairly by police, accusing them of engaging in harassment and “badjohn” tactics.

He said police breached the Data Protection Act when they went to his home at One Woodbrook Place, provided no copy of the warrant issued and seized all of his electronic devices including flash drives, computers, his son’s mobile phone and iPad.

“They never said to us based on the Data Protection Act why they are taking it, how long they are taking it, where it will be kept, who will be designated to see these files – nothing. They don’t say which part of the files they are searching.

They don’t care whether or not my wife and I share intimate pictures… they don’t care. They took everything without stating a reason.”

He said despite his pleas with police he was not allowed to access a computer during his detention which affected his ability to pay workers at the PSA and to complete and submit his soon-due dissertation to the University of Leicester.

Stating that it was his belief that his home has been bugged by police, Duke said his family now feels violated after the ordeal. He said they will be forced to move as his wife is now unable to sleep there.

Duke questioned why the charge came 10 months after the offending statements.

“What would cause police to wait this inordinate length of time? Was it that they were digging up information? And if they had gotten all the information that they needed… why are they hell-bent on disrupting my privacy in my home and my life?”

Duke called on Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to ensure that officers carry out their duties responsibly when dealing with the public and as a Service, rather than a force.

“I say to the Commissioner of Police, you are leading a Service, not a force.”

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