Three prison officers, who authorities were on the hunt for late Friday in relation to a COVID-19 super spread among members of the prison service who attended a Boxing Day bus crawl, have already been tested and are not in hiding.
Trade unionist Senator Caswell Franklyn, who is representing the officers, said at all times the management of the prison service was aware of the whereabouts of Dave Best, Paul Outram and Nigel Hall. All three are now quarantined at Sunbay, Maxwell, Christ Church.
“We are looking to get a lawyer to clear [the names of these men] and to file a defamation case against those people who defamed them on the radio and television last night. It was wrong. It was deliberate. It was nasty,” he said.
During a COVID-19 update on Friday evening, Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, appealed to the prison officers to contact the Superintendent of Prisons immediately. That call was echoed by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and eventually led to the names of the men making the rounds of social media along with the fact that they are wanted by authorities.
However, Franklyn said during a press conference this morning, that even before health authorities ordered a mass testing for COVID-19 amongst prison officers, he had a conversation with the three men and it was agreed that they should be tested for the virus after one of them was informed that the virus was present at the prison.
Franklyn said the three officers were tested at the Winston Scott Polyclinic on Thursday morning and were informed by health authorities that they were to quarantine at home until the results returned.
He said the following morning [on Friday], they all called the prison to speak to the duty manager to inform him that they had been tested and were told to quarantine at home. Franklyn said the duty manager asked them to come to the prison by 2 p.m. that same day.
“But they were operating under the instructions of the health authorities in Barbados who are the people responsible for the emergency rules. So the doctors at the polyclinic were acting on the power of the Chief Medical Officer [Dr Kenneth George], so they gave them those instructions so they had to comply with them or they would be breaching the law,” he said.
“So when they said that they did not know where they were and they were looking for them that was not true, that was carrying out the threat to get there by 2 p.m. or else. So when they didn’t turn up by 2 o’clock, the or else was to send out a police bulletin to embarrass and defame these people knowing full well where they were and the reason why. Why would the prison authorities accept the test done at the Sir Winston Scott Polyclinic?”
Franklyn said later on Friday, a nurse sent a message to one of the officers, advising him to make his way to the Hilton Hotel, and advised him to wear a mask, and practise social distancing.
He said the officer informed the nurse that he does not drive and the nurse told him to send his address and an effort would be made to send transportation for him, and advised him that one of his colleagues was already on his way.
“So these do not sound like villains who are trying to evade the rule of law and avoid being tested. They were tested and they were tested at a government facility that the prison authorities refuse to accept. They knew where they were at all times. I was on the phone when the call came through and they put it on speaker so I could hear. You see, there is more in the mortar than the pestle.
“All three of these men are persons who have the superintendent and the Government before the courts for issues going on in the prison. So when I heard that there was coronavirus in the prison, we decided and they went to get tested before the government-mandated it, they were not avoiding anything or hiding anybody, they were following the rules as set out in the emergency declaration,” he said.
The trade unionist who said he was not happy with the way in which the men were publicly shamed, said one of the men realized that he was a wanted man when someone sent him a WhatsApp message.
Franklyn said he spoke to Abrahams late Friday evening about the matter in an effort to have the matter resolved, and is currently awaiting a response from him. He also indicated that it is Abrahams’ duty to pass on this information to Prime Minister Mottley.
“I do not blame the Prime Minister for repeating information her officials gave her, but I warned her on more than one occasion that she is being misled by some senior public officers and according to the Code of Conduct and Ethics paragraph 5C lying to a Minister is a major offense for which they can be dismissed. She has to invoke the law,” Franklyn said. (AH)