Watson Duke

The Public Services Association (PSA) is describing the detention of its leader Watson Duke as an attempt to weaken the trade union movement.

In a live video on the PSA's Facebook page this morning, the union's first vice president, Ian Murray, said Duke and the PSA's deputy general secretary was stopped by Police around 1.55 pm yesterday and Duke was taken into Police custody.

"Shortly after, he was taken to the hospital for medical attention were he is now warded due to concerns expressed by the attending physicians. At this point Police have not provided any specific details for the detention of our president, nor has he been charged," Murray said.

He said Duke has been cooperating fully with Police.

The Express was told yesterday that Duke was detained as part of investigations into public statements he made a few months ago.

While Police have not indicated exactly which comments were under probe, a source said that in November last year, Duke was reported as saying that there would be "bodies in the morgue" if WASA workers were sent home.

He was at the time reacting to reports of job cuts at TSTT and a statement by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) that jobs cuts at T&TEC and WASA were next.

Murray said this morning:

"It is passing strange, should this be the reason he is detained, that the Police would take a statement by a trade union leader given the context in which it was made, in defense of workers losing their jobs, and interpret it to be allegedly sedition. But that is why we have a Director of Public Prosecutions (D PP) who is well informed of the laws of this country and we trust that the right decision will be made."

"What we will say at this point is that we see this as an attempt to weaken the trade union movement and our membership but we want to assure our membership that the PSA remains strong and committed to fearlessly defending workers' rights," he added.

Unions support Duke

The CWU and the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) have pledged support for Duke and are expected to visit him at hospital today, according to CWU president Clyde Elder.

Elder said Duke's detention was an attempt by Police and the Government to muzzle the free speech of a trade unionist.

"I am almost certain that this has some political undertones and overtones in it. After all, one can hardly escape the fact that as Minority Leader of the Tobago House of Assembly as well, that Mr. Duke is making some inroads into the political landscape in Tobago and certainly that does not sit well with the powers that be at this point in time," he told the Express this morning.

"It is indeed a sad day for us in T&T when the country has reached on the brink of being a Police State, where the Police, in conjunction with the Government, is now seeking to muzzle the free speech of a trade unionist," he stated.

Elder added:

"In any democratic country trade unions have a right to speak out and they are in fact the true and real opposition to the Government in power."

"What this says to us is that Government is hell-bent on destroying any form of opposition and also destroying the trade union movement. But we want to say to comrade Duke to be strong. We are here with you to support you in any way we can."

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