PSA executive wants court to discharge freezing injunction, contempt application

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PSA president Leroy Baptiste. – Photo by Sureash Cholai

A HIGH Court judge has been asked to discharge the injunction which froze the assets and accounts of the Public Services Association (PSA), only allowing for normal operating expenses and the payment of salaries as well as set aside an application for contempt of court against the current executive of the trade union.

On Monday, Justice Devindra Rampersad heard submissions from attorneys for the PSA who raised preliminary objections to the contempt of court application filed by a group of PSA members in December and the injunction granted to them later that month

Rampersad is expected to deliver his decision on the objections before the end of the week, possibly on Wednesday.

Attorney Rajiv Persad, who leads a team of attorneys for the PSA, argued that the contempt application was not filed in accordance with the civil proceedings rules which sets out certain requirements for such proceedings. He also complained that the contempt application was not properly served and there was a substantial delay in bringing it since the PSA members were complaining of alleged breaches of an order of the court in January 2020.

He said the contempt proceedings were only brought two years and nine months after it was alleged the PSA executive did not comply with Rampersad’s orders

“There is an evidential burden which they have failed to meet,” Persad said. He also said this was not a case where the court could dispense with service of the contempt proceedings which carries a penal clause.

On discharging the injunction, which only allows the PSA to pay salaries and water, electricity, telephone, communication and gas bills, Persad said the current executive was doing what it could but there was some difficulty in the interpretation of the order.

“We want a balance to be struck to allow the organisation to operate. There are urgent matters which the union has to deal with.”

Attorneys are expected to notify the judge by Tuesday on whether they have resolved the definition of “operating expenses” as stated in the injunction order that Justice Frank Seepersad granted on December 21.

Persad also said there were several aspects of Seepersad’s orders which were complied with such as steps taken to hold section elections on January 19; an audit of the membership list and the setting of a date for the meeting of the general counsel.

However, attorney Raisa Caesar, who represents PSA members Curtis Cuffie, Demetrius Harrison, Annisha Persad, Curtis Meade and Duaine Hewitt, argued that the PSA’s preliminary objections were baseless since the new executive, led by president Leroy Baptiste, was also guilty of failing to comply with the court’s orders.

“Both executives are at fault for breaching the court’s order,” she argued.

Caesar said there was no issue of delay in bringing the contempt action since it was continuous as repeated calls by members for information on section elections, auditing of accounts and membership lists were not met with fulsome responses before they decided to approach the court for relief.

She said the non-compliance kept mounting up to the appearance of a Range Rover luxury SUV in early 2022, “then it became urgent to come before the court,” to protect the PSA’s assets.

“We see dissipation being a real issue,” she said.

In their contempt application, the five PSA members accused the union’s executive of failing to comply with its constitution and failing to hold elections for nine years even in the face of court decisions in their favour. They have also complained of the PSA’s failure to properly constitute the general council and conference; making exorbitant purchases and approving salary increases; and failing to audit its finances for over a decade.