Outgoing Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Attorney-at-law Derrick Sylvester, is standing firm behind the July 2016 decision to reinstate Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Claudius Coutain, who is on corruption charges to allow him the luxury to secure his retirement benefits after years of service.
During a press conference held at his Lucas Street office on Monday, Attorney Sylvester, who had come in for heavy criticisms from some sections of the public after the decision, attempted to clear once and for all the air on the contentious issue of Coutain’s brief re-instatement in the police force.
“That decision is legally sound (and) if anyone is of the view that I am wrong, I would like them to challenge that decision…”, he told reporters.
“…I have heard many times that the decision was wrong but nobody challenged it and any decision that is wrong should be challenged,” he said.
It was widely speculated that ASP Coutain, who was implicated in a driving licence scam and is known to be a strong supporter of the ruling New National Party (NNP) was reinstated to get the benefits based on his political affiliation.
However, Attorney Sylvester told reporters that the 5-member PSC, which comprised himself as Chairman, along with Hudson Mc Phail and Prescott Swan, known NNP supporters, along with Madonna Harford and DeLano Viechweg, “never took decisions based on political affiliation.”
He said: “All you have to do is put yourself in Claudius Coutain’s position. You know it’s easy to judge from the outside and to be a leader is not an easy thing – you have difficult decisions to make and you cannot make everyone happy…in other words as a professional lawyer I stand by the law. If you’re my friend or my foe, if the law benefits you it benefits you.”
The outgoing PSC Chairman painted a scenario of what could happen if ASP Coutain is found not guilty of the crime and was dismissed by the Commission.
He said it was quite possibile that the government could be faced with a major lawsuit.
“So, I stand by it (ASP Coutain reinstatement). It was a correct decision,” attorney Sylvester declared. “I am indeed satisfied (and) confident that every decision I would have made, some may be tough ones but they were in line with the PSC regulations and the members of the PSC’s interpretation of it…whenever decisions are made, they are made by the 5 members”, he explained.
“I am the Chairman but it is really a holistic decision that is made (and) I feel happy within myself that, I did well and I did the best I could have under the circumstances”, he said.
Attorney Sylvester, who stated that he demitted the office of PSC Chairman to focus solely on his private practice said, his “next move is to serve the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique with utmost integrity decency and professionalism.”
The criminal defense attorney dismissed reports circulating in some quarters that he was demitting office as he was uncomfortable over an attempt by a particular high-ranking female public officer to dictate certain things to him in the execution of his duties.
“No, that was not the case…That is furthest from the truth…I have never had that issue with anyone trying to dictate to me…”, he said.
“…I decided to do it (resign) now because when I examined the quantity of matters I have both locally and regionally that it is in my professional interest to “do so”, he added.
Sylvester pointed to a section of the PSC regulations, which “clearly states that you cannot speak to the Chairman directly” but to direct all correspondence to the Chief Personnel Officer whose duty it is to then table them before the Commission.
He said: “Numerous persons have called me and I have specifically indicated to them that professionally, I cannot speak to (the decision to quit) that until the day when I last hold office.
“So, me not speaking as to the reason was not a case of holding it to my chest but professionally I could not have spoken to a resignation when I still hold the office,” he added.
Fingers are pointing at a female Permanent as the person who was allegedly seeking to influence decisions at the PSC level.
According to Attorney Sylvester, disclosed he has been engaged in “extensive discussions” with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and PSC members since the start of the year on his impending departure from the position.
He said he felt that he had given government sufficient notice of his intention to demit the PSC office by the “ending of June or anytime sooner (and has) received correspondence that a (new) chairperson was found effective June 15”.
However, Sylvester could not confirm that Cabinet Secretary Beryl Isaac is tipped to replace him as PSC chairperson.
“I was not notified as to who the new chairperson would be…and I did not ask solely because today was my last day and it was voluminous,” said the longstanding Attorney who described the experience obtained from his close to 5-year tenure at the commission as one that “cannot be measured.
“It was monumental, invaluable because there I was able to see the machination of public law, public administration law in action…I have practiced some public law also but actually being in the position, it is a wealth of experience that you could only garner if you sit in that chair.
“So, I want to thank the Prime Minister because he was the person (who) recommended my appointment to the Governor General and I want to thank him tremendously.
Attorney Sylvester also thanked the “numerous police officers, teachers and other civil servants who appeared before the Commission and encouraged them to work hard and fulfill your duty with integrity and honestly”.
“Do not allow what is happening anywhere (to) prevent you from doing your job properly because at the end of the day it will be measured by what you do,” said the outgoing PSC Chairman as he admonished public workers even some of whom he would have had to call into his office to caution them on various issues.
The attorney received his first 3-year appointed as PSC Chairman on November 22, 2013 and it was renewed in 2016 and was due to end in 2019.