It was recently brought to my attention that four and a half years after the former Secretary to Cabinet, Mrs. Gemma Bain-Thomas instituted court proceedings against the government of Grenada, and, almost one year after the OECS Court of Appeal ruled in her favor in a stinging judgment that rebuked the sitting Governor General and the Public Service Commission that both bodies are again embroiled in another unconstitutional undertaking.
I find it appalling that while the Government is advocating to strengthen the legal system in the region and for the establishment of the CCJ, the Government itself is blatantly violating the Constitution of Grenada and refuses to adhere to the decision of the OECS Court of Appeal.
This is not to discredit the CCJ which is supported in principle.
However, the administration of justice in Grenada and the region needs to be urgently addressed. It is therefore a call for the Government to put its house in order before advocating for changes in the legal system. If adherence to the decisions of the judiciary is not addressed, the advocacy for the CCJ by the Government becomes authorised hypocrisy.
With the OECS Court of Appeal having ruled in favour of Mrs. Gemma Bain-Thomas in her case against the Attorney General and the Public Service Commission, the Government should have moved speedily for a consent agreement on damages awarded for her unconstitutional removal from the Office of Secretary to the Cabinet within the twenty-eight (28) days established by the Court.
The decision of the Court of Appeal supersedes the administrative actions of Her Excellency the Governor General and the Public Service Commission and therefore a compensation package should have been finalised and a consent order obtained without delay to facilitate the expeditious payment of court awarded damages to the litigant.
The unconstitutional removal of the former Cabinet Secretary from the Public Service amounts to forced early retirement. On retirement, a public officer is paid pension and gratuity and, in this case because the public officer is forced into retirement prior to attaining the compulsory retirement age, all emoluments payable up to that age are also to be included in the compensation package.
The Government and citizens are expected to operate within the legal system. In addition, all citizens of the country should be treated with respect. It is poor governance for the Authorities to demand that citizens obey the laws and respect the Authorities, while, at the same time, those in Authority operate above the laws and disrespect the citizens.
The Government by not appealing the decision of the OECS Court of Appeal has acknowledged its breach of the Constitution in its attempt to transfer the then Cabinet Secretary to the post of Executive Director in 2013 and which the said OECS Court of Appeal ruled was “effectively a demotion”.
It is therefore unbelievable to learn that the Government has continued to breach the constitution by informing the former Cabinet Secretary via letter dated July 24th, 2018 that it is deemed that she was no longer a member of the public service with effect from February
14th 2014 without providing the necessary compensation as required by the Constitution and laws of Grenada and the decision of the OECS Court of Appeal.
Can this action by Her Excellency the Governor General be constituted as contempt of court – the dismissal without cause of a senior public officer who has recently had a court ruling in her favour? Quite rightfully the dismissed officer responded and stated in part:
“As far as I am aware, it is customary and the law that when an officer is removed (retired) from the public service the officer’s terminal benefits are immediately paid. Your letter however fails to indicate compliance with the constitution and laws of Grenada by not detailing my constitutional entitlements (compensation, gratuity, pension, payment for vacation leave and other monetary or fringe benefits) arising from my unconstitutional removal from the public service of Grenada by Her Excellency the Governor General and legislative obligations required of an employer”.
It is also very disrespectful of the Government of Grenada as an employer that while negotiation was ongoing between the Attorney General and the Attorney for the former senior public officer that, the letter referred to earlier was received by her with no reference to the negotiation or the compensation package. Is it that the legal and administrative systems are so chaotic that the left hand does not know what the right is doing?
I applaud the former Cabinet Secretary for her response requesting of the Chief Personnel Officer that: “your letter dated July 24th, 2018 be retracted and reissued to reflect existing constitutional provisions, the laws of Grenada and the decision of the OECS Court of Appeal in its totality and, to cater for the immediate payment to me of all my constitutional entitlements, compensation and court awarded benefits simultaneous with my removal (retirement) from the public service of Grenada”.
It is interesting that the letter of dismissal did not show any gratitude for the services provided to the country by the long serving senior public officer. Citizens in general and long serving public officers deserve better.
The Government is advised to operate within the framework of the legal system and adhere to the Constitution and laws of Grenada and the decision of the OECS Court of Appeal in relation to the unconstitutional removal (retirement) of the former Cabinet Secretary, to ensure that the retired officer is promptly compensated and is not put into a position of financial embarrassment.
Adherence to the Constitution and the decision of the Court of Appeal will put the Government in a stronger position to influence the regional legal system.
Concerned Public Servant