Recent statements made by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell on legal matters have generated quite a lot of interest and discussion in the country.
There was an immediate reaction from former Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood who quite correctly felt that the statements questioned his competence and credibility as an attorney-at-law on the island since Dr. Mitchell claimed that the legal service provided to the State in recent years by its own Department was inferior and resulted in the loss of a number of court cases and awards of hefty judgments in cost to the Treasury.
THE NEW TODAY is quite confident that Attorney Hood and those who served government in recent years as lawyers are more than capable of defending themselves against this most unfortunate attack by PM Mitchell who has given many signals over the years that he has reservations about persons in the legal profession.
The Prime Minister’s latest statements came against the backdrop of the manner in which he was forced to lick his wounds after the court ruled against the vindictive manner in which he took action against two top civil servants after returning to power in the 2013 general elections – Cabinet Secretary Gemma Bain-Thomas and Commissioner of Police Willan Thompson.
Dr. Mitchell choose to ignore the most salient message that the court was giving him in those judgements that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and that any action taken by him or any other Prime Minister in the future must not violate the constitutionally guaranteed rights of anyone.
The Prime Minister left out a very salient point in his statement which relates to the advice that was given to him by these legal people which resulted in the State being ordered by the court to pay millions in compensation to affected persons.
What was the advice given by Attorney General Hood to the Prime Minister on the decision taken by him to remove both Bain-Thomas and Thompson from their respective positions?
Did the Prime Minister move against them first and then ask the Attorney-General to find a legal away to make effective the decision that he took within hours of returning to power?
This newspaper will not allow Prime Minister Mitchell to once again pull wool over the eyes of people by suggesting that government will now be getting superior legal representation with the hiring of Guyana-born Darshan Ramdhani as the new Attorney-General.
It is no secret that Mr. Ramdhani was serving as Solicitor General when Dr. Mitchell returned to power and was soon out of the job. Why?
The Prime Minister must answer this question for the nation.
THE NEW TODAY is also forced to question the so-called “superior” legal representation that Mr. Ramdhani will bring to the position as the principal legal advisor to the government. What is the yard stick that the Prime Minister is using to make the boast that Mr. Ramdhani is bringing far superior legal representation to government than those who served before?
Less than a week after this latest onslaught by PM Mitchell against the lawyers who were once on government payroll, the state suffered another humiliating court defeat against Grenlec in which the so-called “superior” Ramdhani had put forward the arguments in the case.
Is it true Prime Minister Mitchell that your government decided to move forward with the Grenlec case in the face of the position held by the so-called “inferior” lawyers who advised not to proceed as the State would most likely suffer defeat?
The public officers in the country will never forget the role played by the “superior” Ramdhani as Legal Consultant to the government in getting the Supreme Court Registry to open its doors on a Saturday to file papers to take action against them in the battle over the 25% gratuity and pension payments.
It is also the same Ramdhani who made a move to get a judge to hold an unprecedented sitting of the court on a Sunday to deal with public officers. Why this high-handedness? No one can fault a court for holding an extraordinary sitting on a Sunday if the State needed legal cover in a situation in which a foreign power was trying to invade Grenada or something of the sort. But to bring out a judge on a Sunday to deal with a simple industrial dispute is an over-reaction and abuse of State power.
THE NEW TODAY would also like to remind the Prime Minister that not too long ago the same Ramdhani was facing an allegation of contempt of court by his own Legal Affairs Department in a particular matter involving a foreign national in which a gag order was taken out against the media.
Mr. Prime Minister, who prevented former AG Hood and then Solicitor General Dwight Horsford from filing the case after the papers were already prepared?
THE NEW TODAY would also offer a word of caution to Mr. Ramdhani that if he is not careful that he might just become the latest in a long line of persons who are hired to serve the Prime Minister and then discarded along the way.
It is well recorded the number of top civil servants forced out of their jobs over the past 25 years by the Prime Minister on the grounds that he lost confidence in them – former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Brian Francis, former Accountant General, Garvey Louison, Director of Audit, Julia Lawrence, former Budget Officer, Richard Duncan and the likes.
Three of them – Duncan, Francis and Louison – were handsomely rewarded financially by the court due to the arbitrary manner in which Dr. Mitchell moved against them as public officers.
It is also an undisputable fact that more than half of the $EC40 million set aside by government to pay compensation against persons who took the State to court came from actions of the current New National Party (NNP) government.
The Dipcon debt is over $20 million including interest payments following the high-handed manner in which Dr. Mitchell and Works Minister Gregory Bowen terminated their lawful contract with the former Congress government in favour of CCC.
Another of those arbitrary actions of the Mitchell government and for which the court handed down a ruling in excess of $EC1 million was the Dorset Charles matter in which his business premises were illegally broken down and destroyed on Grand Anse beach by the State.
The latest outburst from the Prime Minister on lawyers must also be construed as an attack on his own former Deputy Prime Minister, Elvin Nimrod who was the leader of the Ministry of Legal Affairs for many years.
It is just more evidence against this current Prime Minister who is prepared to throw just about anybody “under the bus” when they are no longer useful to him.
Many years ago, calypsonian Black Wizard did a song “Show Me the Will” in which he depicted Prime Minister Mitchell as one who in his quest to hold onto power was fighting every sector of the Grenadian society including lawyers, teachers, doctors, nurses, civil servants and the media .