Former Chairman (ag) of the Public Service Commission (PSC) Patrick Yarde was on Friday unwilling to defend the decision he took to dismiss Deputy Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon without her complaint against Attorney General Basil Williams SC being addressed.
“No I wouldn’t comment on it now because since it got out in the press the three commissioners who took the action met and we agreed in principle if there would be any comment all of us will do it”, he said when approached by Stabroek News for a comment shortly after a press conference he hosted in his capacity as the president of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) had ended.
In a letter carried in this newspaper earlier this month, Kissoon revealed that she was dismissed on August 31st, six hours before the PSC’s term expired. She has argued that she did not have a hearing before the PSC and that her complaint against Williams for alleged harassment and verbal abuse had not been addressed.
When approached, Yarde stated that he is no longer the head of the PSC as the Commission’s life came to an end on August 31.
Asked about the decision during his tenure to fire Kissoon, he said that that it a matter that will have to be discussed at another time since a decision was taken that he and the former commissioners would comment on the issue as a collective.
Yarde was unable to give a time period in which a comment could be expected but assured that he and the former commissioners will be meeting again to deal with the issue. He told Stabroek News that a meeting within the coming days would not be possible as he would be leaving the country shortly.
In her letter, 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 had 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. Given the absence of her attorney Nigel Hughes, she did not participate in the hearing and as such no evidence was taken from her.
Questions have been raised as to the authority of the AG’s Personal Assistant to issue a dismissal letter ahead of the PSC. The letter was served on Kissoon at her home around 6 pm on August 31.
The AG’s Chambers in a response to Kissoon’s claims revealed that a complaint had been lodged with the PSC about her alleged derelict approach to her duties and to date it had not been investigated.
“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 Chambers 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. 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.
The AG’s Chambers has said that Kissoon’s letter to the media was deceptive and argued that she approached her duties with “gross irresponsibility” and a “lack of professionalism.”