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PNP Administration two-faced, under-handed on TSC firing

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Government's sacking of the Teachers' Services Commission (TSC) without any official notification from the Cabinet or the Ministry of Education is a disgraceful reminder of the unjust treatment meted out to the Public Service Commission (PSC) by the former Administration in 2008.

Readers will recall that the then prime minister, Mr Bruce Golding, fired the members of the PSC, accusing them of "persistent misconduct and unlawful behaviour" in carrying out their function.

Mr Golding's reference was to the PSC's dismissal of then Acting Deputy Solicitor-General Lackston Robinson and its failure to obey a 2007 court order to reinstate him.

But Mr Golding's detractors argued that he was using the Robinson case as an excuse to cover his disagreement with the PSC's recommendation of Dr Stephen Vasciannie to the post left vacant by the departure of Mr Michael Hylton.

Mr Golding's action resulted in then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller obtaining a court injunction preventing Mr Golding from naming new members until after an application for a judicial review of his action was heard.

The legal tug of war between the Government and the Opposition eventually ended with Prime Minister Golding having his way and, needless to say, he and his Government were justifiably hauled over the coals by the Opposition, the media and civil society groups for their display of arrogance.

Given the moral position taken by the then Opposition on the issue, we had thought that they, once in Government, would avoid any similar behaviour. But maybe we were expecting too much. After all, these are politicians who are so steeped in the tribalism that has damaged this country that they are now bereft of shame.

There can be no plausible explanation for the callousness with which the Government ended the tenure of the TSC with just under a year left for the members to serve.

Even worse is the fact that Mr Alphansus Davis, who chaired the commission, said he learnt of the Government's decision after reading a newspaper report that the new TSC members would have to attend to a backlog of appointments of school principals.

We are even more surprised that the education minister, Rev Ronald Thwaites, had knowledge of the Cabinet's decision, given his own stridency in the past on the need for common decency and respect for people, especially those engaged in the public service.

Minister Thwaites, and indeed Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who spares no effort in declaring herself a champion of people's rights, need to explain to the country why the executive saw it fit to fire the members of the TSC.

For as it now stands, their failure to give a reason for the unprincipled action is fuelling speculation that it is rooted in last year's dispute between Mr Davis and the Jamaica Teachers' Association over the decision of then Education Minister Andrew Holness to appoint Mr Davis as chairman while he served as an advisor to the minister.

The Government should also bear in mind that the contemptible manner in which it has conducted itself on this issue has placed the new members of the TSC in an untenable position.

They should also reflect on the fact that if governments continue to do business in this way we will never rid the country of the cancer of tribalism.

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