Ministry of Legal Affairs and Attorney General’s Chambers wishes to respond to a deceptive missive penned by former Deputy Solicitor General, Ms. Prithima Tiwari Kissoon.
It is never the intention or aim of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Attorney General’s Chambers to engage the public in relation to the employment terms and conditions, and issues relating to any employee and more importantly a matter that is currently engaging the Court.
However, the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Attorney General’s Chambers wishes to respond to a deceptive missive penned by former Deputy Solicitor General, Ms. Prithima Tiwari Kissoon, published in the news circular dated the 11th and 12th day of October, 2017, respectively and being extensively circulated on social media. This deceptive missive was followed by a television interview.
It is now imperative for the Ministry to reluctantly address the issues in relation to the discipline and termination of Ms. Kissoon’s services, and correct the erroneous account of events put forward by Ms. Kissoon.
Ms. Prithima Tiwari Kissoon held the post of Deputy Solicitor General within the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Attorney General’s Chambers between the period March 2013 to August 2017. At the time of her dismissal she was earning in excess of one million two hundred thousand dollars ($1.2M) inclusive of allowances.
During the period of November 2015 to January 2017, an investigation was undertaken in the litigation department at the Ministry after it was discovered that Ms. Kissoon, who was tasked with the responsibility of conducting cases of grave importance to the State’s interest, had committed several breaches and violations under the rules and regulations of the Public Service Commission.
These breaches which include but are not limited to, improper preparation and drafting of legal documents, disobeying lawful instructions of her superiors (insubordination), failing to attend court in several critical matters, gross dishonesty in official dealings, improper conduct and dereliction of duties amounting to breaches under section G of the Public Service Rules 1998 as amended by 2004.
As a result of Ms. Kissoon’s apparent disregard for instructions in matters on behalf of the State, several memoranda were sent to the Ms. Kissoon regarding her conduct. The following are examples of a gross dereliction of instructions from her superiors.
- In the presence of the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and litigation staff, she sought to mislead the litigation team stating that she was not in the Court of Appeal for the matter of the Attorney General v Desmond Morian, when in fact the Court Order dated the 4th November, 2016, reflected that she entered an appearance on behalf of the State.
- In matter of Application by Carvil Duncan, where Ms. Kissoon caused the secretary to the Prime Minister to sign an incomplete affidavit and subsequently inserted her own facts which were gravely different to the instructions given by the deponent and caused same to be filed with the incorrect facts.
- In the matter of Application by Bharat Jagdeo, Civil Appeal No.6 of 2016, Kissoon deliberately or negligently prepared and filed the Appeal with the incorrect party named as the Appellant which resulted in the dismissal of the said appeal by the Court of Appeal.
Ms. Kissoon further failed to file an affidavit in answer to an application to strike out the said appeal, failed to make written submissions and consented to the contentions by the Applicant’s lawyer.
Ms. Sita Ramlall, former Solicitor General had cause to pen a letter in the press on this matter.
- In the matter of Harishnarine Sugrim v. AG a matter which Ms. Kissoon had full conduct of, over Three Hundred Million dollars judgment was awarded against the state. It was observed that a particular clause in the submissions by Ms. Kissoon did not support the contention of the Honourable Attorney General. It was further observed that Counsel for the Plaintiff relied on Ms. Kissoon’s failure and used it as a vantage point in her submissions.
- In the matter of The Berbice Bharati Saywah Sangha etal v AG Kissoon failed to attend court and did not instruct anyone to attend on her behalf, judgment was rendered against the state and only when the matter was published in the News Paper was the Chambers apprised of this fact.
Therefore a fortiori the Ministry is in possession of substantial evidence of Ms. Kissoon’s improper conduct of matters and the Ministry can furnish same to any court or competent tribunal. It is noteworthy to mention that in several of the matters in which Ms. Kissoon exercised gross dereliction of duties, Mr. Anil Nandlall was the Attorney on record for the other party.
Ms. Kissoon requested annual leave between the periods of December 2016 to January 2017 and this leave was refused on the basis that the Solicitor General had preceded on pre-retirement leave and Ms. Kissoon was now acting in her post. At the time Ms. Kissoon requested the leave, the High Court and the Court of Appeal were not in recess and several matters in which she had conduct were being heard.
Ms. Kissoon was aware that her matters, which involved hundreds of millions of dollars, and were of grave importance to the State were being heard in the court at the time she requested leave as the court was not in recess. Although Ms. Kissoon was aware that her leave had to be deferred because of the state of affairs, she absented herself from duty and presented a medical certificate thereafter.
The Ministry contends that this behavior illustrates gross irresponsibility, lack of professionalism and professional misconduct in her post as Deputy Solicitor General and a clear subversion of the State’s interest. Notwithstanding, her absence, she failed to apprise the Chambers of the current status and dates for her matters.
This abhorrent behavior resulted in the Ms. Kissoon’s matters being called and judgments rendered in the State’s absence as reflected on the court’s record.
As a result of her dereliction of duties and gross infidelity to the State a complaint was made to the Public Service Commission on the Ministry’s behalf detailing. This matter has not been heard by the PSC to date, much to the disappointment of the Chambers and the Ministry. It is the hope that there will be a hearing and the full ventilation of these issues when the Public Service Commission reconvenes.
Ms. Kissoon was then sent on Administrative Leave and during this period deliberately flouted the rules and regulations of the Public Service Commission when she decided to leave the jurisdiction without approval more specifically the Public Service Rule H 12 (1) which provides for a public officer to spend vacation outside of Guyana.
Section H12(1) provides that the Permanent Secretaries/Head of departments/Regional Executive officers may grant permission to Public servants to spend their vacation leave or other short periods of leave of absence outside of Guyana, with a copy of the notification being sent to the Accountant General and the secretary of the Public service Commission.
The sanction for such a breach includes dismissal. In relation to this last offence, the Ministry has been informed and verily believes, that Ms. Kissoon was afforded a full hearing and was represented by one of her attorneys, Mr. Jailall Kissoon, who represented her throughout the process, during the investigation and hearing.
Hence his appearance could not have been on behalf of Mr. Hughes, but in his own right as her attorney-ay-law, as evidenced by several documents signed by him in this capacity. As such Ms. Kissoon’s constitutional right to legal counsel was not violated in any form or manner.
The Ministry cannot speak to Ms. Kissoon’s “good character” within the public service for the past ten years but a review of her conduct at the chambers since 2015 after the change in Government leaves much to be desired. Further, it is this type of unprofessionalism which led the Caribbean Court of Justice in Ruby Mitchell an or v. John Wilson 2017 CCJ5 to conclude that certain types of errors by Counsel (Attorneys-at-Law) can amount to “professional misconduct.”