PORT OF SPAIN –– “I will not resign,” a defiant Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke said Monday, moments after he was released on $250,000 bail following an appearance in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court on charges of rape and sexual assault of a union employee.
Mobbed by reporters, Duke, who was in the company of his wife, Kimberly, again denied any wrongdoing and said the union’s constitution did not require him to resign from his post because he was charged with a criminal offence.
In an apparent jab towards his accuser, Duke said: “It [the allegation] doesn’t affect me in any way whatsoever I say and I didn’t commit the act and I’m sure with time that will be proven. So I do not feel small, I do not feel embarrassed, I do not feel as if I have done the act. I feel very normal, like Watson Duke.”
His position appeared to be supported by the PSA executive members who attended his court hearing in a show of solidarity.
Speaking to the media outside the court, first vice-president Christopher Joefield said: “The executive of the PSA stands firmly behind him in this matter and we would see where things stand after the process is concluded. In the meantime, we will continue to ensure the strategic direction of the PSA does not get railroaded.”
Asked whether the union’s general council will meet to consider calls for Duke to be suspended pending the determination of the charges, Joefield said a meeting was carded for next week but noted that a final decision on the issue was yet to be made.
“The executive is going to examine the constitution to see whether there is any validity in such a position coming from outside sources, given the fact that the PSA is a sovereign union and has the responsibility to manage internally,” Joefield said.
Saying the PSA had five offices acrosss T&T, Joefield said the alleged victim would be transfered to a “more comfortable and remote” location to prevent interaction with Duke.
“The PSA plans to ensure that her rights are not violated in any way. We are also employers and therefore we will treat this matter with a degree of objectivity,” he said.
But even if the union’s general council does not suspend Duke his post may be still in jeopardy, as his employer, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), may also decide to suspend him due to the charges and revoke allowances given to Duke to operate as a full time union officer.
Duke Monday appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar charged with four counts of serious indecency and one charge for rape.
He is accused of committing the acts of serious indecency on the victim at the union’s headquarters at Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, on four separate occasions between January and April this year.
He was also charged with having sexual intercourse with the victim against her will last Tuesday in a room at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Wrightson Road. Dressed in a black suit, Duke stood silently in the prisoners’ dock and was not called upon to plead to the charges as they were laid indictably.
Police prosecutor Insp Kenneth Cordner did not oppose bail for Duke and said ordering him to surrender his passport was unnecessary. As a condition of his bail, Ayers-Caesar ordered that Duke must stay 500 metres away from the victim and refrain from contacting her via telephone, texts or social media.
Duke was represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC, and John Heath. He will reappear in court on June 9.
The union boss presented himself to police last Thursday, after the victim, a employee at the union, reported the latest attack hours after it allegedly occurred.
He spent almost four days in custody at the Central Police Station, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, before the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) advised on Sunday night that he be charged.