I was dismissed as Deputy Solicitor General by the PSC although my complaint against the AG has never been heard

Dear Editor,

I have remained silent since my complaint against the Attorney General, Mr Basil Williams, SC, to the Public Service Commission (PSC) because public servants are prohibited from making comments in the public domain, but now that I have been dismissed this shackle is removed.

In my complaint to the Public Service Commission on the 27th January, 2017, against the Attorney General, I stated that he had visited harassment and verbal abuse upon me, and had effectively prohibited me from performing my duties, all in an effort to oust me from my post as the Deputy Solicitor General, whether by lawful or unlawful means, and was seeking their intervention and a remedy against the conduct of Attorney General Basil Williams. I had also therein requested permission from the Public Ser-vice Commission to leave the jurisdiction during my vacation leave.

The PSC is a constitutionally independent body sworn in by the President pursuant to Article 200 of the Constitution of Guyana Chapter 1:01, with the power to make appointments to public offices, to remove and after due process to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding such offices, so that if it operates according to its mandate, not even the President should be able to direct its operation on issues pertaining to the public service.

On the 31st August, 2017, exactly six hours before the life of the Public Service Commission came to an end at midnight on the 31st August, 2017, I was served with a dismissal letter at 6 pm at my residence by the Personal Assistant of the Attorney General, Ms Andrea Marks.  This was subsequently followed by an official dismissal letter on the letterhead of the PSC.

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.

In February, 2017, I was granted my deferred vacation leave from November, 2016, and again applied for permission from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Legal Affairs to spend my leave out of Guyana, but the Permanent Secretary never responded so I had to spend my vacation leave in Guyana.

In March 2017, I was informed by the PSC that I should proceed on administrative leave with immediate effect, pending the outcome of investigations into several court matters that of which I she had conduct. The PSC did not give a period or time limit with regard to how long I was to remain on administrative leave, and there were no conditions attached to it. I was effectively relieved from duty by the PSC pending the outcome of the investigations. I was now under the authority of the PSC.

The Secretary of the PSC had earlier advised me that if I intended to leave the country I should notify the PSC about how I could be contacted whilst abroad, which I duly complied with in writing dated, 7th March, 2017.

On the 29th  May, 2017, the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Legal Affairs who now had no legal authority over me wrote:

“As you are aware Ms. Prithima Kissoon, Deputy Solicitor General, is on ‘administrative leave’ with effect from 2nd March, 2017. However, on 7th March, 2017, she left the country without permission from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Legal Affairs.” The Permanent Secretary as a result concluded: “Hence, she is in breach of Public Service Rule H12(1)… In the circumstances and on the directive of the Attorney General Chambers I was advised and instructed that her salary be withheld with immediate effect pending the course of disciplinary action by the Public Service Com-mission.” This was only revealed after my attorney at law, Mr Nigel Hughes, wrote to the Permanent Secretary inquiring why my salary was not paid.

On 9th June 2017,  accompanied by my attorney at law, I attended a meeting at the PSC office where counsel inquired of the commissioners, Ms Went, Ms Stephens and Ms Ali whether they had withheld or authorized the withholding of salary. Mr Hughes further inquired of the Commissioners of the status of Ms Kissoon’s complaint against the Attorney General. The Commission-ers informed counsel that they had not withheld or authorized the withholding of salary and were unable to say what was the status of the complaint against the Attorney General was.

There has also not been a single word from the Attorney General Chambers to the PSC to substantiate Mr Basil Williams’s theatrical accusations splashed in numerous headlines for weeks in all the newspapers of Guyana as well as electronic media worldwide, starting with the publication in the Guyana Chronicle on the 19th January, 2017, with the sensational headline ‘Singh Strikes Twice.’

Realizing that the life of the PSC was about to expire, the PSC acted arbitrarily and ultra vires its powers when it purportedly appointed a Commission of Inquiry (CoI).  It is only the President who can appoint a CoI which must be duly gazetted and follow the rules of procedure under the Commission of Inquiries Act Chapter 19:03. This unlawful Com-mission of Inquiry was constituted with indecent haste on the 18th August, 2017, and issued a summons on the 21st of August, 2017, for me to appear before it on the 23rd August, 2017;  the PSC came out with the verdict of dismissal on the 31st August.

This purported CoI comprising Mr McGarrel, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communities as Chairman, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the President and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Business as commissioners was convened not to investigate the complaint made by me on the 27th January, 2017, against the Attorney General, but to investigate whether I had left the country without permission, and if so to hear an explanation in defence. As was subsequently revealed, this purported CoI of the PSC had been urgently created by invisible hands behind the scenes with the sole and only purpose to oust me, the Deputy Solicitor General, from my post.

I attended the purported CoI on the 23rd August, 2017, accompanied by attorney at law, Mr Jailall Kissoon, who appeared out of courtesy for the Commission, and on behalf of my attorney at law, Mr Hughes, who was out of the jurisdiction.

Mr Hughes, however, sent a letter to the CoI on the 22nd August, 2017, which the Chairman acknowledged receiving. Mr Hughes wrote to the CoI seeking clarification about the following: (1) The date on which the approval was given by the PSC; (2) the process by which the members of the commission will be identified;  (3) the powers pursuant to which the commission purported to act when it made this decision; and (4) whether the commission had been established and the membership thereof.   To date there has been no response.

Little did I know that my presence, letters, responses or requests were of no consequence. The charade continued. Mr Kissoon requested an adjournment to the 15th September, 2017, when Mr Hughes would be present. The Commissioners conferred and the Chairman stated that the CoI was urgent and insisted on asking me pertinent questions, whereupon Mr Kissoon advised me not to answer any questions unless my counsel was present. The Consti-tution guarantees the presence of legal representation as well as the Commission of Inquiries Act Chapter 19:03 Section 13.  In trying to placate Mr Kissoon, who repeatedly requested an adjournment to facilitate the presence of Mr Hughes, the Chair-man stated that their mandate was only to gather information and not to make any recommendations and or decisions to the PSC.

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 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.

The letter of dismissal reads as follows: “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.”

A new PSC will convene and my complaint against the Attorney General Mr Basil Williams will never have been addressed.

My good name has been filched, my character assassinated, my career that I worked so hard to build in the public service for the past 10 years lies shattered at my feet, but my integrity and ethics are rock solid.

Yours faithfully,

Prithima Kissoon

Attorney-at-law

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