Sacked Deputy Solicitor General speaks out, to legally challenge dismissal
By Fareeza Haniff
Former Deputy Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon, who was fired from her job at the Attorney General’s chambers is moving to the courts to challenge the decision of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
In her first interview since her dismissal, she spoke with the New Room on Thursday, detailing her experience working with Attorney General, Basil Williams. Kissoon explained that in March this year, she was sent on administrative leave by the PSC, pending investigations into her conduct over cases she presided over on behalf of the government.
But on August 31, 2017, exactly six hours before the life of the PSC came to an end, she was served with a dismissal letter at 18:00hrs at her residence by the Personal Assistant to the Attorney General, Ms Andrea Marks, which was subsequently followed by an official dismissal letter on the letterhead of the PSC.
Kissoon, who has served in the public service for some ten years, said she was dismissed because she left the country while on leave, without seeking the permission of the PSC or her superiors. But Kissoon claimed that the PSC never attached any conditions when they sent her on administrative leave; she, however, informed the Commission and the AG’s Chambers that she was leaving the jurisdiction and gave them her overseas telephone numbers in the event they needed to make contact with her.
“In truth and in fact, the Attorney General, Basil Williams had given me oral permission to leave the country before, whilst I was on my vacation leave. I informed him ‘Sir I will be leaving the jurisdiction.’ He said, ‘Yes Ms Kissoon, you are permitted to go, however, the conditions attached to you leaving is that you assign your cases and you ensure that any issues that are to be addressed in your absence can be adequately done so.’ And I followed those conditions. I never expected that one of the reasons that I would be dismissed from my post would have been because I left the country without permission,” Kissoon told News Room.
After she left the jurisdiction in May 2017, Kissoon said the AG’s Chambers halted her salaries; she has since filed legal action against the PSC and the AG as it relates to this issue.
VERBAL ABUSE BY THE AG
Kissoon had written to the PSC, detailing the treatment she faced from the Attorney General, whom she accused of verbally abusing her.
“The Attorney General has more than one occasion verbally abused me; said that I was subversive to the government, questioned my conduct in a number of cases, although he had written responses from me, justifying why I took a certain course in the cases I had conduct of and that I was seeking a remedy against him because of the fact that I was being prohibited from effectively carrying out my duties.
“Mr Basil Williams has quite often stated that I was subversive to the government, I was anti-government, he questioned when I appeared in cases, either against Mr Nandlall or somebody that he perceived to be a supporter of the former government and I was quite insulted by that because my mandate as a public servant is to carry out my duties and to act so objectively and from then to now, the Attorney General has not found a single iota of evidence and he certainly will not, to say that I am subversive or I am incompetent in the carrying out of my duties,” the former Deputy Solicitor General explained.
ACCUSED OF STEALING
On the day that she was sent on leave, Kissoon said she proceeded to assemble her personal textbooks but she was prevented from leaving the AG’s Chambers by his Personal Assistant, Andrea Marks, who accused her of stealing books from the Chambers.
“I was confronted by Personal Assistant to the AG, Andrea Marks, who told me that she was instructed by the Attorney General that I am not to take any files or books or documents from the Chambers of the Attorney General and I responded that these were my personal textbooks and that I’m proceeding on a lengthy period of leave and that I was taking them home. I was accused by Ms Andrea Marks of stealing the textbooks and she closed the gates of the Attorney General’s Chambers and told me that the security was instructed that I was leaving the Chambers.
“I was acutely embarrassed. I found Ms Andrea Marks’ conduct quite undignified, I found the instructions by the Attorney General to his Personal Assistant an affront to my character and I permitted her to search my vehicle, inspect every book that I had taken and then I was permitted to leave,” Kissoon detailed.
The situation has taken a toll on Kissoon, who said it has been “quite devastating” to her career in the public service since the accusations levelled against her by the AG is still on the world wide web.
“The accusations that he has made against me, character, my conduct of cases, that it’s absolutely unsubstantiated and not justified and yet it’s all still out there and I have been personally affected by those statements, of course.”
Kissoon believes that she is a victim of political victimization.
“It is not without some significant trial that I am here today and I do not believe that I am the only person that has been subjected to this kind of conduct by the PSC or by a person who wheels a lot of power in government. It should not be done and it should be condemned and it was never condemned.”
Kissoon filed her complaint to the PSC against the AG since January 27, however, to date, the matter has not been dealt with. A Commission of Inquiry (COI), however, was established by the PSC on August 18, 2017 comprising Mr McGarrel, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communities as Chairman; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Presidency and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Business as commissioners to investigate why Kissoon left the country without permission.
She attended the COI on August 23, 2017, accompanied by Attorney-at-law, Jailall Kissoon, who appeared out of courtesy for the Commission, and on behalf of her Attorney, Nigel Hughes, who was out of the jurisdiction. As such, the Lawyer requested an adjournment to September 15, 2017, when Hughes would be present but the Chairman stated that the COI was urgent.
According to Kissoon, she was advised not to answer any questions unless her counsel was present and as such, no evidence was taken from her before the COI.