Labelling a letter she wrote to the press on Wednesday about her dismissal as “deceptive”, the Attorney General’s Chambers yesterday launched a scathing attack on former Deputy Solicitor-General Prithima Kissoon, accusing her of “gross irresponsibility” and a “lack of professionalism.”
Kissoon was dismissed on August 31st by the Public Service Commission (PSC) hours before its term was supposed to expire. She has since argued that she did not have a hearing before the PSC and that her complaint against the Attorney General Basil Williams for alleged harassment and verbal abuse had not been addressed.
Yesterday, in a statement, the Attorney General’s Chambers fired back. It said that Kissoon’s habit of absenting herself while important court matters were ongoing had cost the state millions of dollars.
“During the period of November 2015 to January 2017, an investigation was undertaken in the litigation department at the Ministry after it was discovered that Ms. Kissoon, who was tasked with the responsibility of conducting cases of grave importance to the State’s interest, had committed several breaches and violations under the rules and regulations of the Public Service Commission,” the statement said.
“These breaches which include but are not limited to, improper preparation and drafting of legal documents, disobeying lawful instructions of her superiors (insubordination), failing to attend court in several critical matters … improper conduct and dereliction of duties amounting to breaches under section G of the Public Service Rules 1998 as amended by 2004,” it continued.
Among the allegations pegged against Kissoon by the AG’s office are: In the case of an application by Carvil Duncan, causing the secretary to the Prime Minister to sign an incomplete affidavit and then inserting facts that were incorrect, and different to what had been communicated to her. It said the document was then filed with those incorrect facts. In a matter involving Bharrat Jagdeo, it accused her of “deliberately or negligently” preparing and filing an appeal with the incorrect party named as the appellant, resulting in the case being dismissed by the Court of Appeal. In regard to this matter, she was further accused of failing to file an affidavit in response to an application to strike the appeal, failing to make written submissions, and consenting to the contentions by the applicant’s lawyer. In a matter involving Harishnarine Sugrim vs the AG, Kissoon was accused of including a clause in the submissions that did not support the position of the AG, and which was later used as a “vantage point” by the opponent’s counsel. Three hundred million dollars were said to have been awarded in the judgment, against the state.
“…The Ministry is in possession of substantial evidence of Ms. Kissoon’s improper conduct of matters and the Ministry can furnish same to any court or competent tribunal,” the Attorney General’s Chambers asserted.
“… A review of her conduct at the chambers since 2015 after the change in Government leaves much to be desired,” it added.
In her letter published by this newspaper on Wednesday, Kissoon stated that the AG “had visited harassment and verbal abuse” upon her, and prohibited her from effectively performing her duties, “all in an effort to oust me from my post as the Deputy Solicitor General, whether by lawful or unlawful means…”
She related that she registered her complaint in January to the PSC in relation to the aforementioned issue, but has received no assistance.
In February, she was granted her deferred vacation leave from November, 2016, and applied to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Legal Affairs to spend her leave outside of Guyana but received no response.
However, she said that in March, the PSC would inform her that she was to proceed on administrative leave, pending investigations into several court matters conducted by her. She stated that she was not given a time limit, nor were there any conditions attached to the leave. But she did note that she was told that if she intended to leave the country, she should communicate in writing to the commission how she could be contacted, which she did. Her going on leave out of the country was one of the grounds upon which the PSC based its decision to dismiss her.
In May, she stated that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, which she noted had no legal authority over her at that point as her matter was now before the PSC, wrote stating that her salary would be withheld with immediate effect as she had been in breach of the PSC rules by leaving the country without the permission of the PS of the ministry.
In August, the PSC set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the circumstances under which she left the jurisdiction. Kissoon argued that the PSC had no such powers and it is the President who has that authority under the Commission of Inquiries Act. On August 23rd, Kissoon said she attended the purported CoI accompanied by attorney Jailall Kissoon, who she stated “appeared out of courtesy for the commission” and in place of her attorney Nigel Hughes, who was out of the jurisdiction at the time.
“There was no evidence taken from me before the CoI. I did not participate in the proceedings before the CoI because I was not represented by counsel. Upon inquiring what was going to be the written report of the commission, the Chairman (Patrick Yarde) replied that he would write acknowledging that I was there out of respect and that I was not willing to answer questions without the presence of my counsel, Mr Hughes,” Kissoon had stated.
In quoting the letter of dismissal she received, she noted that it said: “As a result of the inquiry concluded on the 23rd August, 2017, by the Committee set up by the PSC, in which you had participated, the commission, after careful consideration of the matter, has decided that you should be dismissed from the Public Service with effect 2017-08-31 inclusive for leaving the country without prior approval in accordance with the provisions of existing rules.”
She was then served a letter of dismissal on August 31.
“After the PSC had ignored, shelved and abandoned my complaint against the Attorney General, made on 27th January, 2017, which made headlines in all the newspapers of Guyana, and the Attorney General had fully publicized accusations against me of subverting the government and aiding Mr Anil Nandlall and the PPP/C in their cases, Rip Van Winkle suddenly awoke and with its dying breath issued this edict of dismissal. But there has not been a peep from the PSC nine months after receiving a complaint against the Attorney General,” Kissoon declared.
She noted that her lawyer, Hughes had also written the PSC asking several questions about the intended convening of the CoI but got no response.
In the statement sent out by the AG’s chambers yesterday, however, it was stated that Kissoon “deliberately flouted” the PSC rules when she left the jurisdiction without approval. It was related that dismissal is warranted for such a breach.
“…the Ministry has been informed and verily believes, that Ms. Kissoon was afforded a full hearing and was represented by one of her attorneys, Mr. Jailall Kissoon, who represented her throughout the process, during the investigation and hearing,” it said.
“Hence his appearance could not have been on behalf of Mr. Hughes, but in his own right as her attorney-ay-law, as evidenced by several documents signed by him in this capacity. As such Ms. Kissoon’s constitutional right to legal counsel was not violated in any form or manner.”
In response to Kissoon’s initial denial of leave, it was argued in the statement by the Attorney General’s Chambers that Kissoon had assumed the role of Solicitor General (acting), after the Solicitor General had proceeded on pre-retirement leave, and so for this reason, her request for annual leave from December, 2016 to January, 2017, was refused.
It was further stated that during this period, the High Court and the Court of Appeal were in session, and several matters for which Kissoon had responsibility were being heard.
“Ms. Kissoon was aware that her matters, which involved hundreds of millions of dollars, and were of grave importance to the State were being heard in the court at the time she requested leave as the court was not in recess. Although Ms. Kissoon was aware that her leave had to be deferred because of the state of affairs, she absented herself from duty and presented a medical certificate thereafter,” the ministry said.
“As a result of her dereliction of duties and gross infidelity to the State a complaint was made to the Public Service Commission on the Ministry’s behalf detailing. This matter has not been heard by the PSC to date, much to the disappointment of the Chambers and the Ministry. It is the hope that there will be a hearing and the full ventilation of these issues when the Public Service Commission reconvenes,” the statement added.