Former SSA director wins dismissal lawsuit

Date: 
Monday, December 2, 2019 - 18:30

Caption: Jus­tice Eleanor Don­ald­son-Hon­ey­well 

For­mer Strate­gic Ser­vices Agency (SSA) di­rec­tor Bis­nath Ma­haraj has won his law­suit over his pre­ma­ture dis­missal in 2015. 

De­liv­er­ing a 17-page judge­ment in the San Fer­nan­do High Court, this morn­ing, Jus­tice Eleanor Don­ald­son-Hon­ey­well ruled that Ma­haraj’s con­sti­tu­tion­al right to pro­tec­tion of the law was vi­o­lat­ed and breached as he was not told of the rea­sons for his dis­missal and giv­en an op­por­tu­ni­ty to be heard be­fore it was ef­fect­ed. 

 

Don­ald­son-Hon­ey­well re­ject­ed sub­mis­sions from the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al that the SSA Act, which es­tab­lished the clan­des­tine in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing agency and cre­at­ed the post of di­rec­tor, al­lowed for his ter­mi­na­tion at any time. 

“The word­ing of the Act, though clear that ter­mi­na­tion could oc­cur at any time, does not delve in­to the pro­ce­dure to fol­lowed in ef­fect­ing such a ter­mi­na­tion,” Don­ald­son-Hon­ey­well said. 

She stat­ed that Par­lia­ment must have in­tend­ed that ba­sic pro­ce­dur­al fair­ness and the ob­ser­vance of the rules of nat­ur­al jus­tice would ap­ply in the ab­sence of clear di­rec­tives un­der the leg­is­la­tion. 

“In any event, the Act does not pro­vide that the di­rec­tor could be dis­missed at any time with or with­out just cause and with­out any op­por­tu­ni­ty to be heard,” she said. 

 

In her judge­ment, Don­ald­son-Hon­ey­well grant­ed de­c­la­ra­tions over the breach­es to Ma­haraj’s con­sti­tu­tion­al rights. She did not or­der any com­pen­sa­tion as she re­ferred the is­sue for a High Court Mas­ter to as­sess at a lat­er date. 

Ac­cord­ing to the ev­i­dence in the case, Ma­haraj, a po­lice of­fi­cer with over 30 years’ ser­vice, took a leave of ab­sence af­ter ap­point­ed to the post on a two-year con­tract in 2012. 

Ma­haraj’s con­tract was ex­tend­ed for three years in 2014 but the qual­i­fied at­tor­ney-at-law was even­tu­al­ly ter­mi­nat­ed on No­vem­ber 12, 2015. 

For­mer SSA deputy di­rec­tor Carl­ton Den­nie sued the SSA af­ter a for­mer ju­nior em­ploy­ee Matthew An­drews was ap­point­ed to re­place Ma­haraj. 

In April, last year, High Court Judge Mar­garet Mo­hammed ruled that for­mer na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty min­is­ter Ed­mund Dil­lion act­ed il­le­gal­ly when he re­placed  Ma­haraj with An­drews.

Mo­hammed ruled that the SSA Act did not pro­vide for the ap­point­ment of an in­ter­im di­rec­tor, the post giv­en to An­drews be­fore he was even­tu­al­ly giv­en his in­stru­ment of ap­point­ment in Jan­u­ary 2016.

In Au­gust, Den­nie ap­peared on a plat­form at the Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress (UNC)’s Mon­day Night Fo­rum in Debe.

Den­nie claimed that Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley and Dil­lon in­struct­ed SSA of­fi­cials to fire East In­di­an em­ploy­ees. 

Af­ter Row­ley and Dil­lion de­nied any wrong­do­ing, Den­nie changed his tune and claimed that An­drews had is­sued the di­rec­tive. 

Ma­haraj was rep­re­sent­ed by Anand Ram­lo­gan, SC, Ger­ald Ramdeen, and Jared Ja­groo. Dou­glas Mendes, SC, Michael Quam­i­na, Kristal Mad­hos­ingh, and Ka­dine Matthew rep­re­sent­ed the AG’s Of­fice.  

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