Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was due to appear in court yesterday (Thursday) on a summons issued in the name of attorney-at-law, Queen’s Counsel Celia Clyne-Edwards.
The leading female barrister-at-law wants the court to commit the Prime Minister to the Richmond Hill prison for failing as Minister of Finance to pay millions of dollars owed by government to the Trinidad and Tobago construction company known as DIPCON Engineering Ltd.
Last month, this newspaper carried a report about a Court Bailiff hired by the Law Office of George E.D Clyne who was unsuccessful in trying to serve the summons on the Grenadian leader when he attempted to do so at the Office of the Prime Minister in the Botanical Gardens.
A well-placed source told this newspaper that the Security Co-ordinator in the Botanical Gardens, Cletus St. Paul, the former Chief of bodyguard to late Marxist leader, Maurice Bishop stopped the Bailiff in his track.
St. Paul, now an executive member of Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP), reportedly told the Bailiff that he cannot serve any document on the Prime Minister and should instead serve it on the Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood.
A source close to the law office said that Hood was approached but refused to accept the summons on behalf of PM Mitchell.
He said the summons has since been duly served and that Dr. Mitchell should appear Thursday (yesterday) before high court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed at the Cable & Wireless Building on the Carenage where High Court No.3 is located.
The Order of Mandamus, as filed by Clyne-Edwards, is seeking to get the court to commit Dr. Mitchell as Minister of Finance to the Richmond Hill prison for failing to honour payments of close to EC$20 million owed to Dipcon in compensation for breach of contract.
When Mitchell’s NNP came to power in mid-1995, the newly appointed Minister of Works, Gregory Bowen terminated the DIPCON contract that was signed with the 1990-95 Congress government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite to undertake a number of road projects on the island.
The cash-strapped Mitchell government, which retuned to power in February last year has reportedly failed to make any payments to DIPCON within the past 19 months.
The last time a Minister of Government was brought before a high court judge on an Order of Mandamus was current Education Minister, Anthony Boatswain who served as Minister of Finance for a number of years under previous NNP regimes.
The legal action against Boatswain was taken by late Queen’s Counsel Derek Knight in connection with compensation owed to late Prime Minister Sir Eric Matthew Gairy for properties confiscated by the 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).
High court judge, Justice Kenneth Benjamin who was presiding over the matter refused to allow Minister Boatswain to leave the court until the government had made a certain payment to Gairy to help satisfy the judgment.
Former Finance Minister Nazim Burke of Congress is said to have made a few token payments on the Dipcon matter.