AN OBJECTION has been made to “private” correspondence by attorneys for the Central Bank to the judge who ruled on the claim by the bank’s former governor, Jwala Rambarran, that his 2015 dismissal was illegal.
On Thursday, Rambarran’s attorneys objected to an e-mail sent to Justice Devindra Rampersad on July 5, on his order for the bank to calculate what was owed to Rambarran for his unlawful termination as governor.
On June 22, the judge ruled that Rambarran’s termination was in breach of the Constitution and ordered that he should be paid his salary from the date of his dismissal on December 23, 2015, to July 16, 2017, when his tenure would have come to an end if he had not been fired.
Rampersad had also ordered vindicatory damages in the sum of $175,000 and gave the bank until July 6 to calculate what is owed to Rambarran, less deductions, including income tax.
On Wednesday, the State filed a notice of appeal challenging Rampersad’s decision.
At a hearing on Thursday, Rambarran’s lead counsel, Anand Ramlogan, SC, objected to the e-mail sent by the bank’s attorneys to the court without his team or the Attorney General’s legal team being copied.
That e-mail asked the court to have the attorneys for the former governor and the State give an undertaking that the information the bank had to provide on Rambarran’s salary should not be made public or disseminated and be used for the purposes of the claim.
The bank’s attorneys said the request was being made in light of the Central Bank’s duty to preserve and aid in preserving secrecy with regard to affairs of the bank.
The information it was ordered to provide was copied to the judge.
Attorney: No sacred cows
However, Ramlogan said it was “wrong and improper” for the bank to e-mail the court without copying the parties, saying what it asked for was for the judge to vary his order without providing authorities to support its position.
“We are a constitutional democracy based on rule of law. The principles of transparency are at the core of constitutional democracy. The structure of governance is that every public authority must have a line minister accountable to the people through the Parliament.”
Ramlogan said the Central Bank was not exempt when it came to matters that could have an impact on the bank’s operations.
He said it was never contemplated that the salary of the governor of the Central Bank, paid by taxpayers, was to be kept secret.
“We know the salary of the President, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, you as a judge of the Supreme Court. There are no sacred cows.”
Ramlogan also took issue with the absence of the Central Bank from Thursday’s proceedings, urging the court to refuse the bank’s request for the undertaking. He also said the bank had made no formal application for the court to vary its June order.
In giving his ruling, Rampersad apologised for the way the matter unfolded, saying he only became aware of the situation when he saw Ramlogan's e-mail outlining his objection to what the Central Bank was asking.
Rampersad was critical of the bank’s absence from Thursday’s hearing, even if it was not a party to the action filed by the former governor. The bank's attorneys had indicated, also by e-mail, that since they had no instructions to appear at any hearing of the claim, as it was not a party to it, the hearing could go on in its absence.
“...I am concerned that the Central Bank has, and not meaning to say much as well in terms of their motives, I am surprised they are not here, even out of courtesy, having regard to… They have asked the court to do something and have not shown up to justify their reason for doing so.
“One would have suspected if you’re asking the court to do something…but they have chosen, for whatever reason, to not come.”
He acknowledged that the bank would not have been a party to Rambarran’s claim as it was a constitutional motion but said the Attorney General would have represented the interest of the State and the bank.
“But that being said, I am of the respectful view, having considered submissions and e-mails, that there is no reason for me to vary the order.
“There is no proper application before me and no reason for me to do so.”
Final judgment on September 19
He said the information the bank provided to the court will be sent to both sides by 4 pm on Thursday. Each side was given until September 16 to file submissions or observations on any issue relating to the payment of compensatory damages to Rambarran or the bank’s calculations, if they had any. Rampersad said he will then perfect his order on the payment of compensatory damages and costs and will notify the attorneys of this by September 19.
Before the judge’s order and directions, Russell Martineau, SC, who represents the Attorney General, said since he was not representing the bank, he was leaving it up to the judge to do “what he thinks is right and proper.”
He did take objection to Ramlogan’s describing the State’s appeal of the judge’s ruling as “being cleverly filed,” saying they could not have waited until the final ruling on compensatory damages, since its appeal might have been deemed to be out of time.
About the case
In his lawsuit, Rambarran claimed the Government unlawfully revoked his appointment in breach of his constitutional right to due process and fairness.
These claims were upheld by Rampersad in June.
Rambarran was fired as Central Bank governor on December 23, 2015, after acting president Christine Kangaloo revoked his appointment on the advice of the Cabinet. He had been appointed on July 17, 2012.
At the time, it was said he was removed for being “discourteous” to the Government by making public details of foreign exchange, announcing on December 4, that year, that TT was officially in a recession, and disclosing the names of companies that were the biggest foreign-exchange buyers.
Two weeks before his firing, the Prime Minister said Rambarran had created problems for himself by his actions, labeling them “reckless and illegal.”
On December 22, 2015, Rambarran was summoned to a meeting with Finance Minister Colm Imbert at which the permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Maurice Suite, was present. Rambarran was presented with a press release from the bank, dated December 8, 2015, which noted the sentiments expressed by the private and financial sectors after Rambarran’s statements.
Two days after that meeting, Rambarran was served with the instrument of revocation of his appointment, which gave no reasons or grounds for his dismissal.
Also appearing for Rambarran were attorneys Renuka Rambhajan, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Kent Samlal, Natasha Bisram and Vishaal Siewsaran.
Also appearing for the AG were Jason Mootoo and Romney Thomas.