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Gov’t ordered to pay former Deputy Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon, withheld salary

Prithima Kissoon (Guyana Chronicle photo)

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire has ruled that Prithima Kissoon, former Deputy Solicitor General must be paid her salary that had been withheld.

Ms. Kissoon’s money had been withheld by the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Attorney General.

In May, 2017, the Attorney General caused Ms. Kissoon to be sent on “administrative leave” by the Public Service Commission (PSC) pending an investigation into her alleged conduct on matters for which she had responsibility over while acting as Deputy Solicitor General.

After being sent on administrative leave, by the PSC, Ms. Kissoon left the jurisdiction after applying to the Permanent Secretary (PS), the Secretary of the PSC and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Presidency, Department of the Public Service for permission to spend her leave out of the country.

The PS of the Ministry of Legal Affairs wrote to Ms. Kissoon’s attorney advising 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.”

No investigation was ever conducted according to a statement issued by her lawyer.

Upon her return Ms. Kissoon was summoned by the PSC to attend a meeting with that commission. Ms. Kissoon attended the meeting with her Attorney, Nigel Hughes, who enquired about why her salary was withheld and the commissioners present denied issuing such a directive. “The Commissioners did not provide any information on the alleged investigation which was to be have been conducted into the complaint about Ms. Kissoon’s work,” Hughes said.

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 [Attorney General] against her regarding her work, the complaint that she made against the AG, and the issue of her leaving the country without permission.”

Ms. Kissoon challenged the withholding of her salary during the non-existent investigation.

In her ruling the Chief Justice 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.

Further, the Chief Justice found Ms. Kissoon’s fundamental right not to be deprived of her property, to withhold her salary, had been violated. The Chief Justice was critical of the advice given by the AG’s Chambers which the Permanent Secretary decided to accept. In that 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.”

The Chief Justice directed the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Legal Affairs to forthwith pay Ms. Prithima Kissoon any and all salaries that have been withheld as the decision to withhold her salary was ultra vires (outside of the law), whimsical, an abuse of power, in breach of the rules of natural justice and null and void. The Chief Justice further directed the Permanent Secretary to pay costs in the sum of $500,000.00.

Ms. Kissoon currently has other matters pending against the State for their termination of her services and actions for libel for a series of malicious statements made against her.

Ms. Kissoon was represented by the law firm Hughes, Fields and Stoby.