Today the Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC, MP was successful in her application seeking permission to apply for judicial review against the Children’s Life Fund Authority.
Mrs. Persad Bissessar led the legal team representing Opposition Senator Wayne Sturge in his challenge of the decisions of the Children’s Life Fund Authority rejecting the applications made by the parents of Shannen Luke and Terrence Chandoo. Ironically, it was Mrs Persad Bissessar, as Prime Minster by Cabinet Note No. 1 of 2010 that established the Children’s Life Fund.
The application for permission to apply for judicial review was heard this afternoon at the Port-of-Spain, High Court before the Honourable Madam Justice Kangaloo. The Children’s Life Fund Authority was represented by Senior Counsel Reginald Armour SC. The Court granted permission to apply for judicial review and further ordered that the matter be deemed fit for vacation hearing having regard to the public importance of this matter and fact that this was an application that affected the lives of two children.
Mrs. Persad Bissessar informed the Court of the present status of both children who are currently in Italy with their parents preparing for their medical procedure. She submitted that there were two main grounds of challenge; firstly that the Authority was wrong to hold the view that it was “legally precluded” from making reimbursements to beneficiaries of the fund. Mrs. Persad Bissessar referred the Court to the Children’s Life Fund Act, which provides at section 9, that the Board shall,
“establish procedures for applying to the Children’s Life Fund, determining the eligibility for the payment or reimbursements of medical expenses for beneficiaries and processing claim disputes”.
The second ground of challenge advanced by the Opposition Leader was that the decision of the Children’s Life Fund Authority that the illness that the children were suffering from was not a life threatening disease was unreasonable, irrational and contrary to the provisions of the legislation. In support of this argument evidence was advanced, to the Court, by two eminent medical doctors, Dr. Ramesh Mathura and Dr. Steve Smith.
Mrs. Persad Bissessar objected to the matter being adjourned for an extended period of time and the Court agreed that because of the public importance the matter should be heard during the vacation. Mrs Persad Bissessar submitted to the Court that notwithstanding the expert medical evidence adduced by the Claimant, the Authority must stand or fall by the material that it considered in rejecting the application of these two children. She also informed the Court that the matter should be determined within the shortest possible time and the Claimant was ready to proceed with the matter because the parents were becoming more and more financially burdened with each passing day.
Mrs. Persad Bissessar declared, after the order was made, that this was a significant day in the fight for these two children. The Court, of its own volition, deemed the matter fit for vacation business. Mrs Persad-Bissessar welcomed the decision, stating that this is case is in the public interest and is of national importance, especially given that children are involved.
“This case has consequences not just for the two children, Shannen Luke and Terrance Chandoo, but for the parents of other sick children who may not be able to benefit from funding, if the Children’s Life Fund Authority continues to take the position that persons are not entitled to reimbursements,” Mrs Persad-Bissessar said. She stated that the Children’s Life Fund Statute contains provisions for reimbursements to be made.
Mrs Persad-Bissessar promised to continue to fight for the rights of children of Trinidad and Tobago.
The matter was adjourned to the 21st August 2017.