Oct 14, 2017 News
The Ministry of Legal Affairs and Attorney General’s Chambers has “reluctantly” disclosed a list of reasons why its Deputy Solicitor General Prithima Tiwari Kissoon has been fired.
The reasons were put forward in a statement the Ministry released to the media yesterday.
It was noted that the Ministry would have preferred to avoid public engagement in relation to the employment terms and conditions, and issues relating to any employee and more importantly, a matter that is currently engaging the Court.
However, the Ministry said that it felt compelled to respond to a “deceptive missive” penned by Kissoon and widely published on social and print media. That letter can be read following this link https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2017/10/12/deputy-solicitor-general-has-been-removed-from-office/.
Kissoon held the post of Deputy Solicitor General within the Ministry from March 2013 to August 2017. The Ministry noted that at the time of her dismissal, Kissoon was being paid in excess of $1.2M, inclusive of allowances.
It was noted that 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 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.
These breaches, according to the Ministry, included improper preparation and drafting of legal documents, disobeying lawful instructions of her superiors (insubordination), failing to attend court in several critical matters, gross dishonesty in official dealings, improper conduct and dereliction of duty, amounting to breaches under section G of the Public Service Rules 1998 as amended by 2004.
As a result, several memoranda were sent to the Kissoon regarding her conduct.
The Ministry even listed some of Kissoon’s actions that amounted to improper conduct.
“In the presence of the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and litigation staff, Kissoon sought to mislead the litigation team, stating that she was not in the Court of Appeal for the matter of the Attorney General v Desmond Morian, when in fact the Court Order dated the 4th November, 2016, reflected that she entered an appearance on behalf of the State.
The Ministry then pointed to the matter of Application by Carvil Duncan, where Ms. Kissoon caused the secretary to the Prime Minister to sign an incomplete affidavit and subsequently inserted her own facts, which were gravely different to the instructions given by the deponent and caused same to be filed with the incorrect facts.
Further, there was the matter of Application by Bharat Jagdeo, Civil Appeal No.6 of 2016. The Ministry said that Kissoon deliberately or negligently prepared and filed the Appeal with the incorrect party named as the Appellant which resulted in the dismissal of the said appeal by the Court of Appeal.
Kissoon further failed to file an affidavit in answer to an application to strike out the said appeal, failed to make written submissions, and consented to the contentions by the Applicant’s lawyer. “Sita Ramlall, former Solicitor General had cause to pen a letter in the press on this matter.”
The Ministry also pointed to the matter of Harishnarine Sugrim v. AG, a matter which Kissoon had full conduct of, over $300M was awarded against the state. “It was observed that a particular clause in the submissions by Ms. Kissoon did not support the contention of the Honourable Attorney General. It was further observed that Counsel for the Plaintiff relied on Ms. Kissoon’s failure and used it as a vantage point in her submissions.”
In the matter of The Berbice Bharati Saywah Sangha etal v. AG Kissoon failed to attend court and did not instruct anyone to attend on her behalf, judgment was rendered against the state.
The Ministry said that it was only apprised after the matter was published in the news.
“Therefore a fortiori 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. It is noteworthy to mention that in several of the matters in which Ms. Kissoon exercised gross dereliction of duties, Mr. Anil Nandlall was the Attorney on record for the other party.”
The Ministry also noted that Kissoon requested annual leave between the periods of December 2016 to January 2017 and this leave was refused on the basis that the Solicitor General had preceded on pre-retirement leave and Kissoon was now acting in her post. At the time Kissoon requested the leave, the High Court and the Court of Appeal were not in recess, and several matters in which she had conduct were being heard.
The Ministry stated that 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 contends that this behaviour illustrates gross irresponsibility, lack of professionalism and professional misconduct in her post as Deputy Solicitor General and a clear subversion of the State’s interest. Notwithstanding her absence, she failed to apprise the Chambers of the current status and dates for her matters. “This abhorrent behaviour resulted in Kissoon’s matters being called and judgments rendered in the State’s absence as reflected on the court’s record.”
The Ministry said that it lodged a complaint with the Public Service Commission. This matter has not been heard by the PSC to date.
Kissoon was then sent on Administrative Leave, and during this period deliberately flouted the rules and regulations of the Public Service Commission when she decided to leave the jurisdiction without approval, the Ministry asserted.
The Ministry said that the sanction for such a breach includes dismissal.
The Ministry also said that it cannot speak to Kissoon’s “good character” within the public service for the past ten years, but a review of her conduct at the chambers since 2015 after the change in Government leaves much to be desired.
“Further, it is this type of unprofessionalism which led the Caribbean Court of Justice in Ruby Mitchell anor v. John Wilson 2017 CCJ5 to conclude that certain types of errors by Counsel (Attorneys-at-Law) can amount to “professional misconduct.”
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