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Riot cops for Tobago protest

By Annabelle Brasnell, in Internet Express, 16 May 2000

SOLDIERS and police with riot gear were called out yesterday to protect THA secretary for health Judy Bobb and administrator Agatha Carrington at public health offices in Signal Hill yesterday.

Irate public health workers were banging on the doors to Bobb's and Carrington's offices, demanding to speak to them.

Neither of the women came out to speak to the workers.

Instead, the police were called in. About five soldiers and 20 police officers with riot shields and batons arrived.

By that time the angry workers had dispersed. Snr Supt Ronald Denoon tried to get the rest of the crowd gathered at the entry gate to the compound to disperse also. But the crowd continued to chant- calling for the removal of Carrington.

Over 200 public health workers were protesting because five of their colleagues had not been paid.

District nurses also turned up at Signal Hill to lend their support to the public health workers.

The men are all labourers in the public health department. They say they have not been paid since October last year.

The non-payment has to do with a row over who has the authority to hire workers in the environmental healh department.

There was no violent confrontation with the police and no one was arrested yesterday.

The soldiers left soon after they arrived. Members of the media were prevented from entering the building housing the offices of Carrington and Bobb.

Denoon told the media that neither of the women could speak to them at the time.

At a media conference held at the offices yesterday afternoon, reporters were shown the door to Carrington's office.

Wooden splinters were still on the carpet. A gaping hole was in the middle of the door, near the door knob and a large crack was near the top.

It was reported that the workers had tried to kick down the door.

Just before 10 am, police officers cleared a path for Bobb to drive through the gate to attend the THA's weekly caucus meeting in Scarborough. She was booed as she left.

About half an hour later, the protesting workers also left the compound to march to Scarborough.

The protest ended in front of the THA building on Jerningham Street, where the workers spent almost an hour talking and calling for Chief Secretary Hochoy Charles and Bobb to come out and speak to them.

Bobb said later that the protest was politically motivated and called the names of three members of the PNM and PEP, saying they were the organisers.

Bobb said some workers had not been paid because they were hired by public health inspector Claudia Arrindell, who is in charge of the environmental health services department.

Arrindell, Bobb said, had no authority to do so.

That responsibility lay with herself and Carrington.