Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar successful in fight against the Government for members of the protective services
Government ordered by the High Court to appoint members of the Protective Services Compensation Committee
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP has succeeded in her fight against the government to appoint a Protective Services Compensation Committee for members of the Police Service, the Fire Service and the Prison Service. On Friday 4th August, 2017, High Court Judge Madam Justice Charles sitting in the Port-of-Spain High Court ordered the government to appoint the members of the Compensation Committee, established under the Protective Services, (Compensation) Act on or before the 15th September 2017.
In fact, it was a UNC administration that was responsible for the passage of this piece of legislation, 21 years ago, to provide protection to members of the protective services and yesterday, it was the Leader of the UNC who was successful in compelling the government to appoint members to the Committee established under the Act to adjudicate on the claims of officers.
The Order was made after the Court ruled that the matter, filed by the Opposition Leader and a team of lawyers including UNC Senator Gerald Ramdeen, for retired Police Officer Fazal Ghany for constitutional relief was fit to be heard during the vacation. Mr. Ghany was a police officer who fell and suffered severe spinal injuries 11 years ago. He made an application to the Committee for compensation and his claim was denied because the Committee held that the provisions of the Act did not cover the type of injury he suffered. He appealed the decision of the Committee to the Court of Appeal but was unsuccessful. Upon appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Mr Ghany was successful and the Judicial Committee ruled that his claim be remitted to the Committee for assessment. Since the matter was remitted Mr. Ghany was unable to access the Committee because none was appointed by the Government. In his affidavit, Mr. Ghany revealed that he was forced to cut short his son’s University education because of the financial hardship he and his family suffered in being unable to access the Committee to assess and be paid the compensation due to him.
The Order made by the Court is a significant win for all officers of the protective services. For the past two years, members of the protective services were unable to access the Committee to seek compensation for injuries suffered in the course of their employment. In addition, the families of officers who lost their lives while on duty were unable to access the Committee to seek compensation due to the failure of the Government to appoint members of the Committee.
For the past three days the government, through its lawyers, opposed the Opposition Leader’s application to deem Mr. Ghany’s application for constitutional relief urgent and requiring the prompt attention of the Court but today the Court agreed with the submissions of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar and ruled in favor of Mr. Ghany. Mr. Ghany is one of a number of members of the protective services who have been denied their right to access the Committee for the past two years. Yesterday, with this ruling these officers have had their right to access the Committee restored.
In giving judgment in the matter Madam Justice Charles referred to the exceptional circumstances of Mr. Ghany’s case where the failure of the Government to appoint members of the Committee resulted in a breach of an Order of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for a period in excess of two years.
The Court said that it could not overlook the fact that the inactions of the government was not only a denial of Mr. Ghany’s constitutional rights but also resulted in a denial of the rule of law. The inactions of the government had the effect of bringing the system of justice itself into disrepute and the Court as the guardian of the Constitution had a duty not only to protect the rights of the citizen but also a greater duty to protect the administration of justice from being brought into disrepute.
The inactions of this government in failing to appoint the Compensation Committee over the past two years rendered nugatory the provisions of the Protective Service (Compensation) Act which was enacted to provide compensation for officers who each day are called upon to put their lives at risk for our country. The failure of the government over the past two years to comply with an order of our highest Court had the effect of further undermining the administration of justice.
Yesterday, the actions of the Opposition Leader restored the protection that the law provides to these officers and their families. The ruling of the Court, on the constitutional motion brought by Mrs. Persad-Bissesar, has vindicated the rule of law and defended the administration of justice.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has promised to continue to fight for the people of our country to restore the rule of law.