Breaking News: Police rebuff PM’s attempts at resolution

Gaston Browne, PM of Antigua and Barbuda
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By Elesha George

More than 100 police and fire officers have rejected invitations by Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the minister responsible for police, Steadroy Benjamin, to meet to address longstanding complaints.

The officers are demanding the government leaders meet them on their terms at the police ground, where scores of them gathered today for a third consecutive day as part of action being taken in response to a slew of grievances.

In a letter delivered to the executive of the Police Welfare Association earlier today, Benjamin suggested that the three-member executive meet with him and members of State Insurance on Friday, to hear an update on the status of the long sought after medical insurance for police officers.

Minister of national security Steadroy Cutie Benjamin (file photo)

Prime Minister Browne also invited the executive to a Cabinet meeting next Wednesday to address other issues including the deplorable conditions of police stations across the country and plans to increase the police age of retirement from 60 to 65.

Browne and Benjamin refused to meet the officers at the police ground, making reference to Covid protocols and rules on mass gatherings.

In the PM’s letter he also highlighted a chapter of the Police Act which prevents officers from protesting as they are essential public workers.

Scores of boos and vexed tones rang out at the police ground after the letter was read. The officers say they will no longer meet on the government’s terms, saying they have done so for years without success.

They say they are prepared to meet all through the weekend into next week and the coming weeks before they accept further “disrespect” from government officials.

In his letter, the prime minister offered to meet some demands including renovations to several police stations and relocating at least one. In the memo, he indicated that he would provide paint and building materials that the police officers could use to renovate the stations themselves.

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