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Crowne: Suspension Unfair; airport official did his job with Moses and Robinson-Regis

“To paraphrase a former politician, once Minister [Dennis Moses] was opposed, he became a ‘raging bull’. It was shocking behaviour.

“It was also inconsistent with how we would expect a Minister to act—let alone a Minister with such an international portfolio where diplomacy and tact are key. The Honourable Minister’s response also gave insight into the uphill battle that Estate Constable Alexander may have faced in his interaction and subsequent internal investigation.”

The following Letter to the Editor on the suspension of Airport Authority estate constable Kelvon Alexander was submitted to Wired868 by barrister and attorney-at-law, Dr Emir Crowne:

Photo: Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses speaks at the United Nations.
(Copyright UN.org)

The suspension of Estate Constable Mr Kelvon Alexander, a member of the Airport Authority’s Security Force, for two weeks without pay has come under recent scrutiny. And rightly so.

Estate Constable Alexander was apparently suspended because he instructed Ministers Dennis Moses and Robinson-Regis that they could not exit the duty-free area of the airport through an access-controlled door. In other words, he was doing his job.

On 4 December 2018, the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs issued a statement dated 4 September 2018, entitled “Clarification of Incident at Piarco International Airport.” The purported clarification did nothing to alleviate the situation. Rather, it pitted ‘protocol’ against proper procedure.

In other words, in the guise of preferential treatment—that is ‘protocol’—it sought to justify the respective Ministers’ actions. It did nothing to acknowledge that Estate Constable Alexander was simply doing his job.

To further aggravate the situation, Minister Moses—the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs—appeared on the Morning Brew with Hema Ramkissoon, also on 4 December. For most of the interview the Minister gave rather deliberate and painstaking responses to Ms Ramkissoon’s questions about CARICOM, regional integration and other matters within his purview.

Photo: Minister of Planning and Development and PNM Women’s League chair, Camille Robinson-Regis.
(Copyright Ministry of Planning)

However, towards the end of the interview, when questioned about the incident the Minister became visibly belligerent. To paraphrase a former politician, once the Minister was opposed, he became a ‘raging bull’. It was shocking behaviour.

It was also inconsistent with how we would expect a Minister to act—let alone a Minister with such an international portfolio where diplomacy and tact are key. The Honourable Minister’s response also gave insight into the uphill battle that Estate Constable Alexander may have faced in his interaction and subsequent internal investigation.

In the end, Trinidad and Tobago needs a culture shift when it comes to politicians. Navigating Piarco International is not like navigating Heathrow. By all accounts, Estate Constable Alexander was punished for doing his job; and, for want of a better term, upholding the rule of law.

Disciplining him is disproportionate and unfair.

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15 comments

  1. The employee deserves a letter of apology and a reward for not bending the rules. The days of ‘do you know who I am?’ at airports is over.

  2. Imagine Moses demandin someone be disciplined.

  3. Lasana Liburd How are you feeling now? Please rest up as much as possible OK!!!

  4. IMO it’s stretching to describe the MoFA’s response as akin to that of a raging bull. BUT he was arrogant, pompous, officious, evasive and full of himself. He didn’t do himself any favors on CNC3. His body language, tone and general conduct conveyed far more than he probably intended.

  5. Saw part of Moses interview on the news. I like him even less now. Sounded very contemptuous and haughty.

  6. The process that led to the suspension of Estate Constable Alexander shows exactly why the Industrial court often rules against employers. The Airport Authority abandoned the principles of natural justice and Industrial Relations best practices by failing to have a hearing in which EC Alexander would have been able to test the veracity of his accusers. Instead the Authority appeared to acted in haste and bias by imposing a penalty as they did, especially when Minister Moses admitted on Hema’s show that he’s yet to submit a report on the matter.

  7. Some ppl, the political parasites included, are of the firm view that the law does not apply to them. They are members of an elitist mindset who strut their stuff with a level of arrogance once they have achieved “big fish status” in a small pond. It is ironic that in the political world these same wannabe big fish are the first to kiss citizens’ pampers come election season…
    I’ll be sure to be waiting with a garbage bag full of used pampers for them come election season; red crappo yellow crappo, same crap…

  8. I think the incompetent public servant at Foreign Affairs who prepared the press release also needs to be identified and called out.Proper protocol training at FA always began with an emphasis that concessions granted by customs, immigration and security at the Airport were a courtesy and not a right and that in the event that the officials decided to check bags etc those instructions were to be complied with immediately in a respectful manner.It would be a scary thing for the security of every person using the airport if Ministers and others could override proper security arrangements on demand.For this reason the AA should be backing the official to the hilt and in fact be commending him for standing his ground and doing what was correct in the face of an inappropriate request.I have seen Ministers removed from Office in the UK for much less!!

    • Is this usual though that they would be allowed to totally bypass Customs? In my experience, the concession offered to dignitaries was a speedy passthrough via Customs, but never a total bypass. Never in my life have I even seen that access used as an exit although I have accompanied a few dozen diplomats and ministers through Piarco Airport.
      I was really surprised to learn that was a thing.

    • Jeré K. Andrews , the Protocol Officer is required to ask the person being facilitated if they have anything to declare and that information is relayed to the head of Customs on duty.I have done Protocol duty at the Airport as a Foreign Service Officer and have had those courtesies extended to me as an Ambassador. It is and has always been a courtesy and not a right.I am astonished by press reports suggesting that Minister Moses who in the 1980s spent some time in the FS, a big chunk of which was actually spent in Protocol,might not have been aware of this.