Gov't to obey ruling on paying dismissed Supreme Court workers -Gopaul
December 21, 2002
The government intends to obey the court order directing that reinstated Supreme Court employees be paid monies owed to them although the State has appealed the ruling.
Justice Dawn Gregory-Barnes on Thursday ordered Registrar of the Supreme Court, Sita Ramlal, to "forthwith" pay reinstated Supreme Court employees monies owed to them from April 1 at six percent interest.
Ramlal was also found in contempt of an earlier court ruling by Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards which had ordered the reinstatement of the workers and their payment.
Permanent Secretary, Pub-lic Service Ministry (PSM), Dr Nanda Gopaul yesterday told a press conference that the government at no time intended to flout the order to reinstate and pay the employees.
According to Gopaul, Ramlal on the issuing of Cummings' order, had written to the PSM advising that her dismissal of the workers had been found to be null and void and seeking guidance.
She later wrote Secretary to the Treasury, Neermal Rekha on the matter of their salaries.
Rekha, in acknowledging receipt of the letter, had indicated that the matter had implications under the Financial Administration and Audit Act which could have been considered illegal.
He further said, that there are certain posts for which budgetary allocations are made, which once filled, additional payment could not be made. After Ramlal had dismissed the Supreme Court employees, replacements had been hired and were being paid out of the relevant allocations.
According to Gopaul, when the order was issued, Ramlal immediately notified him, documented by letter dated September 12, that the court had made it clear that as Registrar she had no authority to dismiss and that the workers should be reinstated.
The ministry, the PS said, examined the order and decided that the government should always observe an order of the court even though at times it might not agree with the decision. "The proper thing to do is observe the order then have it set aside by appealing the decision", Gopaul added.
While this was pending, Gopaul said that Ramlal pursued the reinstatement of the employees and wrote the relevant authorities giving notice of the implications of the matter.
It was her understanding, Gopaul added, that once she had no authority to dismiss she did not have the authority to hire.
The PSM then sought clarification from the Public Service Commission (PSC) which responded by saying that since the body had not yet been reconstituted it was forwarding the matter to the Attorney-General for advice.
Following the dismissal of the workers, Gopaul said, replacements were immediately found due to the nature of the job and the need to have persons at the Supreme Court. This created a predicament for government since it could not have two groups of persons receiving the one set of monies allocated for that purpose.
Gopaul said Ramlal has remained quiet and done everything possible to obey the court's order but the delay has been in relation to billings under the Financial Administration and Audit Act.
"No individual or official is responsible for employment alone unlike the private sector", Gopaul said. He reiterated that government will never ever disregard any decision of the court and said that it is prepared to abide by the decision.
"We will do everything possible to bring a resolution to this issue but as I have indicated to you lawyers of the government have appealed the decision", Gopaul said.
One of the issues he said, which brought about the state of affairs was the court's ruling on reinstatement instead of damages as is normally the case in matters of wrongful dismissal.
It has created complications for government especially in relation to other statutory regulations, the PS added. (Oscar P. Clarke)