……as over 300 Traffic Warden Recruits suffer
OUR COVER STORY by PETER GREEN
Sonia Francis-Yearwood is the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Works & Transport while Vel Lewis is the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of National Security. This, however, is as far as the similarities of the two Permanent Secretaries go, for while the former is hardworking and decisive the latter is pompous and arrogant and many employees of the National Security Ministry also describe him as very vindictive. And these qualities are what have now placed the future of over three hundred Traffic Warden recruits in jeopardy relative to their training.
Ms Sonia Francis-Yearwood has given permission more than three months ago for three hundred traffic wardens to be selected and trained for duty in the various communities and so relieves more police officers from traffic duty to assist in curbing the spiralling crime wave. Traffic wardens come under the Works Ministry, a programme which had first been initiated by Jack Warner when he was the Minister of Works & Transport during the tenure of the People’s Partnership Government.
Lewis is a disgrace to the profession
Under normal circumstances, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works & Transport would have been commended for taking a hands-on approach with this initiative especially since it would have allowed more police officers to assist the Commissioner of Police. But no! Not Vel Lewis!
The training and selection of Traffic Wardens are usually done by the Office of Law Enforcement Policy (OLEP) which office is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of National Security whose PS is Vel Lewis. On the issue of the training of the Traffic Wardens, Lewis promptly issued a directive to OLEP instructing them not to train the three hundred plus recruits since they have other more important things to do with their time. So for the last three months over three hundred Traffic Warden Recruits who have been selected for training are in limbo, unemployed and not knowing what their future holds. Many of them are reluctant to apply for other jobs not knowing if or when they shall be called. This is surely a scandalous state of affairs and neither the Minister of Works & Transport, Rohan Sinanan, nor the Minister of National Security Stuart Young, has been able to address the situation and to deal with the pompous and arrogant PS in the Ministry of National Security. Simply put, it is a case of rank-pulling as practised by Lewis. And to what avail? To the detriment of some three hundred Traffic Warden recruits.
A similar situation exists today with the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government which Ministry is responsible for Municipal Police. OLEP which is also responsible for the recruitment and training of Municipal Police Constables has also been instructed to halt until further notice.
PS Vel Lewis has so advised PS Desdra Bascombe and consequently a batch of one hundred Municipal Police Constable Trainees under the Public Service Commission is currently in limbo
Lewis is a disgrace to the profession and in particular to the Permanent Secretaries’ fraternity and has put to shame the collegial attitude of latter-day Permanent Secretaries as Eugenio Moore, Reginald Dumas, Dodderidge Alleyne and even more recently Cheryl Blackman and Jennifer Boucaud-Blake
There is an African saying that when the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled or better yet when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. Sonia Francis-Yearwood is no elephant. She is too suave and professional to be classified as such. Having worked in the Ministry of Works & Transport for well over twenty years she knows her Ministry and her work as no one else does. The elephant in the room is Vel Lewis who has been shuttled from Ministry to Ministry with no record of achievement. Lewis joined the Ministry of National Security as its Permanent Secretary on April 4, 2016. Prior to that, however, he was the Permanent Secretary in Tobago in the Ministry of Tobago Development. In 2015 when the Rowley government came into office Government Ministries were reorganised and the Ministry of Tobago Development was disbanded. With nowhere to go and nothing to do and no legacy behind him, Lewis was assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister and one year later made a Permanent Secretary. Since then he has been riding roughshod over the staff at the Ministry of National Security especially over the contract staff and is today the most hated Permanent Secretary in government.
Between a rock and a hard place
The grass in the PS’ fight are the Traffic Warden recruits who have found themselves between a rock and a hard place while the insensitive Lewis struts about dismantling the Ministry of National Security at every turn.
He recently used his office to bypass Surendra Sagramsingh the former Senior Superintendent of North Eastern Division for the post of Head of the Transit Police which post he gave to Edwin Phillips, even though Sagramsingh had topped the interview and had made the most marks. Lewis had instructed the interview panel to reverse their decision and to make Phillips the top candidate which the panel refused to do. Not only did he give Phillips a two-year contract effective from 3rd December 2019, but Phillips has since been instructed by Lewis to shortlist officers in the Transit Police Unit for promotion to the ranks of Corporal, Sergeant and Inspector even without having them interviewed. There have also been complaints against Lewis micromanaging the Business Operations Unit and, in particular, a female Business Operations Assistant whom he has singled out for special favours.
Morale in the Transit Police Unit is low. Morale in the Ministry of National Security is extremely low. And Morale among Traffic Warden Recruits is abysmally low. What a disaster Lewis has become and he seems to be untouchable from the Prime Minister down. He is held in disdain by his other Permanent Secretary colleagues who consider him to be nothing more than an upstart.