Court quashes decision to relieve soldiers of appointments after legal challenge

An order has been made temporarily quashing a decision made by the Defence Board to relieve two army officers of their appointments shortly after they moved to the court over the non-payment of their annual Christmas bonuses.

Major (ag) Lesley Ramlall and Lieutenant (Coast Guard) Andre Cush moved to the High Court against Dr. Roger Luncheon, Secretary to the Defence Board and Commodore Gary Best, the Chief-of-Staff, shortly after they received their letter on March 13 from their commanding officers.

The order, made on April 3 and directed to Luncheon and Best, quashes the decision of the Defence Board to relieve Ramlall and Cush of their appointments until the hearing and determination of the civil action.

The application for the order was made by Senior Counsel Rex McKay and attorneys Fitz Peters and Abiola Wong-Inniss.

The supporting affidavit stated that on March 1, Ramlall and Cush along with Captain Rono Joseph and Captain Harold Fraser filed proceedings in which writs of Certiorari and Mandamus were being sought. The writs were directed against Best in relation to his decision to withhold the payment of the one month incentive awarded to soldiers in December by President Donald Ramotar.

On March 5, the affidavit said, Nisi Orders were granted and the matter adjourned for March 19. It was stated that on March 13, letters informing the officers that they had been relieved of their appointments pursuant to a directive of the Defence Board. The affidavit stated that Ramlall and Cush were instructed to pack all their personal belongings and cease all communication with other ranks. “We were relieved of our appointments without having made any request for same or given an opportunity to be heard,” they said in the affidavit.

By way of a letter on March 14, which was prepared by their attorney, a request was made for the Defence Board to review its decision. That request was denied and communicated by a letter dated March 15 by Dr. Luncheon.

Subsequently, they were advised by their lawyers that they had a constitutional right to work and that the decision taken to relieve them of their appointments was both perversity and unconstitutional and should be quashed.

Their affidavit noted that one of the reason outlined in the March 13 letter informing of the decision to relieve them of their appointments was the “possibility of conflict of interest.” However, they said that their legal team advised that there is no possibility of this if they remained on the job “as the matter has no bearing performance of our duties; it’s a matter of law as to whether Commodore Best was entitled to withhold the incentive.”

It was stated that the other reason stated in the letter was for them (Ramlall and Cush) to be allowed to pursue the pending legal matter, however “we have been advised by our attorneys-at-law and verily believe that remaining on the job could not hinder us in pursuing our matter as we have retained counsel to do so on our behalf and the matter is not one that turns on factual issues but legal issues which are outside of our area of expertise.”

They said they believe that the decision to relieve them of their appointments is “a suspension in circumstances which do not justify same and was made without due process” and that the decision was “arbitrary, unfair, unreasonable, irrational, unlawful, discriminatory and unconstitutional and is therefore null, void and of no legal effect”.

The matter continues on April 18.

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