Former Deputy Solicitor- General Prithima Kissoon last evening defended herself against the scathing attack on her performance by the Attorney General’s Chambers, accusing it of making her a scapegoat for Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams’ negligence, which she blamed for derailing important state cases.
In a strongly-worded response, Kissoon also said that the Chambers made dishonest claims against her as part of a move to install an already chosen replacement.
She charged that Williams is behind the manoeuvring and also detailed instances where he deliberately concealed information to make it appear as though she was unfit to hold her former post, while hiding his responsibility for several judgments made against the state.
In one case, Kissoon said a judgment of $300 million was made against the government because Williams failed to even appear, despite having assured President David Granger and the judge that he would personally appear for the proceedings. She also cited another case where he disregarded advice to opt for a settlement and the state ended up having to bear the cost of a larger award after the court found in the plaintiff’s favour.
“It appears that the only court that the [AG] seeks to try me is in the media with distorted, fabricated falsehoods to which he has easy access… This persecution of me in the press is to conceal his hidden agenda of replacing me with one of his chosen, which the public will in due course learn,” Kissoon said in a five-page response, which was released by her attorney, Nigel Hughes.
On the heels of a letter published in the Stabroek News last week, which detailed the events leading up to Kissoon’s dismissal, the AG’s Chambers on Friday issued a lengthy response in which it accused her of gross irresponsibility, lacking professionalism and dereliction of duty.
Kissoon, who was sent on administrative leave for several months, was dismissed on August 31st by the Public Service Com-mission (PSC), hours before its life expired, for allegedly leaving the country without permission.
Noting that she read the AG’s Chambers’ response with “considerable consternation and disbelief,” Kissoon last evening responded at length to the claims that she habitually absented herself while important court matters were ongoing, thereby costing the state millions of dollars.
“Perhaps of considerable significance if not of equal importance is the fact that every submission which I have prepared and subsequently presented to any court, first had to be submitted to of the Attorney General for his consideration. I have never failed to provide the Attorney General well in advance with my intended submissions in all matters involving the state. It was the Attorney General who instructed his staff to desist from receiving my draft submissions which led to my emailing them to him well in advance of all court appearances,” she said.
Failed to appear
The AG’s Chambers accused Kissoon of causing the Secretary to the Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo to sign an incomplete affidavit and then inserting facts that were incorrect, and different to what had been communicated to her in a case brought by Carvil Duncan. In her response, while admitting that she drafted the affidavits of Nagamootoo and his confidential secretary, Kissoon explained that both documents were emailed to the Office of the Prime Minister for review by Legal Officer Tamara Khan “for additions and alterations” and to the AG, who acknowledged receipt. “If the Attorney General felt that I had compromised the pleadings of the Affidavit in Answer of the Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, and his confidential secretary, Ms. Deann Ali, then he had a right and duty to request leave of the court to file supplementary affidavits from the deponents which he did not do and therefore he is labouring under a mistake or fashioning a distortion,” she said.
In the case of Hareshnarine Sugrim v National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, she explained that she was not permitted to finish the matter as she was sent on administrative leave and as a result never saw the submissions in reply of the attorney for the plaintiff. She said that in matter the AG had written to the President, the presiding judge and the plaintiff’s attorney and informed them that he would appear personally and conduct the trial. “The Attorney General wrote and sought numerous adjournments from Her Honour which were granted. However, the Court decided to commence the trial having accommodated his requests for over a month. The trial commenced and concluded without the Attorney General ever appearing,” she said, while adding that the case, which involved the sum of $300 million, was not considered of sufficient import for the AG to appear personally, like his predecessors, and conduct the trial and “dazzle the Court with his legal acumen.”
Kissoon stated that after she was prohibited by the AG from conducting matters on behalf of the State and after being sent on administrative leave, the submissions in reply by the Plaintiff were served on the AG’S Chambers. “The Attorney General had the ripe opportunity to respond to Counsel’s submissions and dethrone the Plaintiff’s case and remedy any defects in my submissions, yet this did not happen,” she said.
She stressed that the statements made by the Chambers regarding the circumstances surrounding the granting of the consent Order of Court that was given by the Court of Appeal in the matter of the Attorney General v Desmond Morian are “a deliberate and malicious fabrication of the events.” This case centered on Ministers Winston Felix and Keith Scott being allowed to occupy seats in the National Assembly.
She explained that it was after attorney Anil Nandlall consented to the continuation of the stay in the case that the consent order was granted by the then acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh. She said that the attorney’s consent resulted in the two ministers being able to occupy their parliamentary seats until the hearing and determination of the appeal, which was filed by the AG.
Kissoon said that on November 4, 2016, she attended the Court of Appeal for three matters and before the court was convened she received a frantic call from an office assistant informing that she has to appear in the Attorney General v Desmond Morian matter. She made it clear that prior to that moment she had not received any notice of the matter nor was she informed that a notice was received by the Chambers.
On her return to the office, she informed the AG that the consent order was made and that she had received no notice prior to her appearance in the Court of Appeal and as a result was without the file. “Without knowing the facts he verbally abused and insulted me as being incompetent,” she claimed, before adding that “it is the Attorney General who has distorted the information and clearly attempted to deceive and manipulate the public with regard to what the ‘consent’ in the Order of the Court meant… The Attorney General has clearly attempted to defend his prejudices when his objective from the time he entered the Chambers was to remove me from my post.”
In the Berbice Bharati Saywah Sanga et al. v The Attorney General case, Kissoon explained that she had advised the AG to settle the matter at a lesser sum $7 million, which counsel on the other side was willing to accept and he “arrogantly refused.”
The Court of Appeal, she explained, had made an order by a majority decision that the matter be referred to the High Court for the sole and only determination on the quantum of damages. The lands owned by Berbice Bharati Saywah Sanga was compulsorily acquired by the former government to build UG’s Tain Campus.
She said that Justice Sandra Kurtzious ordered and found that the Plaintiffs/Applicants are entitled to compensation. They were previously paid $3 million and after taking this into the account, the court ordered that the Plaintiff/Applicants be paid the sum of $17.8 million as full and final compensation for the compulsory acquisition of their property.
Additionally, in the case of the Attorney General v Bharrat Jagdeo, Kissoon said that the AG neglected to disclose that he had in his possession a copy of the prepared Affidavit in Answer that she had emailed to him four times on various days and a copy was given to his confidential secretary. “I waited on his instructions, comments, additions or alterations to the submitted Affidavit in Answer but none were forthcoming. The Attorney General was, therefore, at all times apprised of the content of the Affidavit in Answer and my written submissions to the Court of Appeal,” she charged.
She added that on January 9, during a court appearance, the AG sought leave of the court to lay over and serve further written submissions in response if necessary to the submissions made by counsel for Jagdeo by the 13th day of January, 2017. “The Attorney General never filed the Affidavit in Answer, never argued his case orally or in written submissions as a legal luminary and eminent counsel,” she said.
She dismissed the claim that Nandlall, a former AG, represented the other parties in the cases she had mentioned. She called the suggestion that she was colluding with him nothing more than “a wicked conspiracy.” Of the five cases, she said Nandlall appeared in two.
Kissoon had previously said that given that she was on indefinite administrative leave, the Public Service Commission (PSC) was the body she had to report to. In addressing the claims of her leaving the country without notifying the Chambers, she said Public Service Commission Secretary Marvalyn Stephens had advised that if she intended to travel overseas, the PSC must be informed and provided with contact details. “As a result of receiving this written advice I wrote to the PSC, as per their instructions, that I would be travelling out of the jurisdiction and provided two contact numbers and an email address for any pertinent communication regarding their enquires,” she said.
The AG’s Chambers, in its release, had made mention of the high salary that Kissoon received. Responding to this, she said that the remuneration for the position of Deputy Solicitor General is one which is “not fixed or determined by my hand or negotiation but rather set and approved by the Honourable members of the National Assembly.”
Kissoon called the Commission of Inquiry set up to hear her complaint as “unlawful, unconstitutional and illegal” and said that there “copious notes and recordings of what transpired at the Commission of Inquiry.” She called to the AG to not pre-judge this matter as it is subject of an appeal.