Legal Affairs Ministry ordered to pay former Deputy Solicitor General withheld salary

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Attorney General Basil Williams SC, and Deputy Solicitor General Prithima Kissoon

The Permanent Secretary of the Legal Affairs Ministry has been ordered by the High Court to pay former Deputy Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon, salaries that were withheld from her.

In May, 2017, Kissoon was sent on “administrative leave” by the Public Service Commission (PSC) pending an investigation into her alleged conduct on matters which she had conduct over while acting as Deputy Solicitor General following complaints from Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General, Basil Williams.

After being sent on administrative leave, Kissoon had left the jurisdiction after applying to the Permanent Secretary of Legal Affairs Ministry, the Secretary of the PSC and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency’s Department of the Public Service for permission to spend her leave out of the country.

However, the PS of the Legal Affairs Ministry wrote Kissoon’s lawyer, informing him that her salary had been withheld because she had left the country without permission and that “on the directive of the Attorney General’s Chambers [she] was advised and instructed that her salary be withheld with immediate effect pending the course of disciplinary action by the Public Service Commission.”

But according to Kissoon’s lawyer, Nigel Hughes, no investigation was ever conducted.

In a statement on today (Saturday, July 27, 2019), Hughes explained that upon his client’s return to Guyana, she was summoned to attend a meeting with the PSC. Kissoon attended the meeting with her attorney, who enquired why her salary was withheld and the commissioners present denied issuing such a directive. Further, the Commissioners did not provide any information on the alleged investigation, which was to be have been conducted into the complaint about Kissoon’s work.

As such legal actions were taken to recover her withheld salaries during the non-existent probe and on July 25, acting Chief Justice, Roxane George, ruled in favour of the former Deputy Solicitor General.

In her ruling, the Chief Justice found that, “Indeed the letter inviting the applicant to meet with the PSC, did not say in relation to what the meeting was about. This is especially relevant as the circumstances of this case disclose that the PSC was dealing with more than one issue as regards the applicant – the allegations by the AG against her regarding her work, the complaint that she made against the AG, and the issue of her leaving the country without permission.”

Justice Georget further stated that it was the PSC that had sent the applicant on administrative leave and it was impermissible for the PS to usurp the jurisdiction of the PSC in deciding or giving notification of the penalty, if any, to be imposed.

Furthermore, the acting Chief Justice found that Kissoon’s fundamental right not to be deprived of her property, to wit her salary, had been violated. In fact, Justice George was critical of the advice given by the AG’s Chambers, which the PS decided to accept. She found the advice “appears to have been an attempt to punish the applicant while awaiting the outcome of other disciplinary proceedings that were meant to be conducted as regards other allegations against her.”

Besides Kissoon’s salary, the Chief justice also ordered the Permanent Secretary to pay costs in the sum of $500,000.

Kissoon has had a contentious history with the Attorney General, with accusations being traded against each other.