Executive Lawlessness, Racial Discrimination, Sexual Harassment:


Was Prithima Kissoon a Victim of these Abuses?

“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, lays shattered at
my feet, but my integrity and ethics are rock solid,” says a deeply hurt Prithima
Kissoon, who claims that she was wrongfully dismissed from her position as Deputy
Solicitor General of Guyana.

The decision to fire Prithima was described by the pro-government Kaieteur News
(KN) as “a flagrant miscarriage of justice.”

I empathize with Prithima for the deep pain that she is enduring when she has
worked so hard to elevate herself intellectually and professionally, and then in a
short period that path on which she was traveling was shattered. She was axed
from her position on the pretext of unverifiable allegations of “misconduct” and
“unprofessionalism.” Prithima has been able to effectively demolish those
allegations with hard evidence and solid reasoning. Former Crown Prosecutor, Bill
R states: “Ms Kissoon answered all the allegations against her in a convincing and
robust way……quoting case after case.”

It is also apparent that the Attorney General (AG), Basil Williams, has been
unaware of many issues related to the Prithima case, but did not think it necessary
to probe into these and assess their possible implications. Seeking a “just and fair”
decision was never Basil’s concern. He was bent on vilifying Prithima, firing her and
using the Public Service Commission (PSC) as an instrument for carry out that
dastardly act.

The sad part of this story is that the people, including Basil Williams, who have
made these accusations, have proven by their perforated track record that they
themselves are unprofessional in their approach to work. In addition, they revel in
vendetta politics and are seemingly consumed with venom. They do not have any
legitimate basis to pronounce on morality and professionalism. One could
immediately recall Basil Williams’ blatant open threat to a sitting judge, but despite
widespread condemnation of his aberrant conduct, Mr Granger has refused to
sanction Basil. It’s obvious that Granger agrees with whatever decisions are made
by his Attorney General.

Why did Prithima incur the wrath of Basil Williams, the Attorney General? Basil
became bitter when he suffered another crushing blow at the Judiciary. The Court of
Appeal threw out the private case of “race baiting” leveled against Bharrat Jagdeo.
Both the Solicitor General and the then Deputy, Prithima Kissoon, reported that
Basil Williams had insisted that his name be placed on the court documents as a
plaintiff. Of course, that was improper as Basil had no locus standing in the matter.
Instead Basil would have been happy if Prithima had deviated from legal procedures
to satisfy his undying need for revenge against Jagdeo.

At the trial in the Appeal Court, Prithima agreed with Anil Nandlall who represented
Jagdeo that the Attorney General was not a proper party to the proceeding.
Williams spent no time in castigating Prithima for the outcome of the case, instead
of blaming his own incompetence.

It is believed that from then onwards (when the government lost that case), that the
Attorney General continued on a vendetta to destroy Prithima’s career in the public
service, and to undermine her professional integrity. KN expressed their indignation
at the government’s arbitrary dismissal of Prithima. “The AG had visited upon her
harassment, verbal abuse, and had effectively prohibited her from performing her
duties, all in an effort in ousting her from her post as Deputy Solicitor General.”
What is incomprehensible is the silence of women’s and “do good groups,” as well
as the Indian NGOs, including Mandirs, Mosques, and Churches. I am happy that
the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) has broken away from the pack and has
expressed its disenchantment with the double standards of the coalition
government. They have cited the case where the President Granger’s Public
Information and Press Services Officer Lloyda Nicholas-Garrett, an Afro-Guyanese
was given a pass and kept her job, despite her terse racial comments, and where
an Indo-Guyanese professional was fired because of her race, her alleged PPP
affiliation, and for defending her professional integrity. Granger has remained silent
on this matter: “true to form!”

Kaieteur News (KN) described Prithima’s dismissal as, “a flagrant miscarriage of
justice by a constitutional body, aided and abetted by the government. Another
professional has failed to obtain the protection which was expected of a
constitutional body.” What is equally ludicrous was that the Public Service
Commission (PSC) established a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the Prithima
affair. In carrying out this mission, they have acted unconstitutionally. It’s only the
President that can establish COIs. This issue speaks to the matter of executive
lawlessness. My question is: “who advised the PSC to set up a COI, and was this
the first ever COI instituted by the PSC?” Would the AG seek retroactive approval
(as a cover) from the President for this work of the COI?

When the American Ambassador stated that the Granger administration is
observing the constitution, I wonder to which constitution he was referring? For
sure, it couldn’t be the Guyana 1980 constitution and related amendments! It had to
be the PNCR constitution! Or it could have been that the American Ambassador
had a bad night before.

There have been many constitutional violations by this administration, but only a
few have reached the court. The cost is not only prohibitive but also, even if victims
are willing to initiate legal proceedings, they are scared more than anything else, to
proceeed because of the fear of reprisals and victimization. Prithima’s home was
invaded by bandits but only selected items were taken, like hard drives; other
valuables were not taken. How would anyone describe that dramatic act? This is
sending a chilling message to others who want to take the path of Prithima. This is
part of the fear and intimidation tactics that are the PNCR brand.

This would have been a good case for the Ethnic Relations Commission which the
government has failed to activate. It’s no good for Ramjattan to say that the
appointment of Service Commissions is in deficit. There are enough funds to
activate these and they have had enough time (2 and 1/2 years) to make these
appointments. It is these bodies that could potentially grant relief to citizens from
executive lawlessness. But there is a deliberate attempt not to hurriedly appoint
these commissions. The government does not want any oversight over their actions
and policies.

Prithima will prevail in the court. This is a test case for all professionals in Guyana.
The PPP, the PNC, the WPA and the AFC supporters have the right to be a part of
the professional government service, which has built safeguards into the system,
such as employment security and due process rights. Regrettably these protections
are systematically being eroded by the coalition. The Judiciary is under pressures
to fall under the dictatorship sledge hammer. I hope that it does not buckle under
these pressures, and stay firm to defend the constitution and civil liberties. There
are ominous signs that it (dictatorship) is lurking in the backyard. Guyanese have to
be vigilant and must speak out. Silence is not an option.

Guyanese need to know that irrespective of their party affiliation, “there can be no
development without democracy!” There can be no justice when there exists a frim
embrace of vendetta politics! There can be no justice when there is the insidious
practice of racism! There can be no justice when there is the blatant practice of
sexual harassment!
DR. TARA SINGH IS AN INDEPENDENT COLUMNIST. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.