Taxpayers’ money being wasted by state’s unrelenting approach – Thomas
The state follows a pattern in cases brought against it, which is unrelenting in its approach, and essentially wastes taxpayers’ money because at every turn it ends up suffering crushing legal defeat.
These observations belong to counsel Jomo Thomas, who expressed them at a press conference at his chambers on Wednesday, January 6.
“…The actions of the state as it relates to Bigger’s case is reflective of the Government’s posture on a whole series of other cases that are brought,” Thomas stated.
The lawyer, known for taking on constitutional matters, was speaking on the topic of his client Leon ‘Bigger Biggs’ Samuel’s land dispute with the state, which is ongoing.
In this case there are approximately nine acres of property at Rabacca that Samuel claims belongs him, but a March 2019 state survey displays land in the area as belonging to the crown.
The dispute has metamorphosed into a court battle, but the state attempted to strike out ‘Bigger Biggs’ claim before it got its day in court.
This was dismissed, but the state attempted in December 2020 to seek permission to appeal this dismissal. This was also dismissed.
“It happened in the Otto Sam’s case where they (the state) filed to strike out and then they appealed,” he continued.
In the case of head teacher Otto Sam, the High Court ruled that his 2013 dismissal from the public service was “improper”, “illegal” and “disproportionate”.
“It happened in the teachers’ case, that’s Johnson, Daniel and Thomas, where they (the state) filed to strike out and then appeal,” Thomas stated. He was referring to the three teachers, Elvis Daniel, Addison Thomas, and Kenroy Johnson who resigned from the public service in 2010 in an unsuccessful bid to be elected to Parliament on a New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket. They reapplied to the public service, but were never reinstated. In resigning, the teachers had relied on a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Teachers’ Union and the Government. The Court of Appeal ruled in the favour of the teachers in 2019, noting that they had been deprived of their fundamental right to property.
“It happened in the other case with the public service union and the issue of promotions and so on, they filed to strike out and they filed an appeal,” Thomas stated.
The Union argued that the Public Service Commission failed to adhere to specific regulations related to the process of promotion of public servants. Justice Esco Henry delivered a judgement in the Union’s favour on December 19, 2018, ruling that the Commission failed to comply with specific regulations in respect of the promotion of five officers.
“On all of these cases, the Government is unrelenting, it is prepared to go forward, and essentially waste taxpayers money because at every turn, whether we are talking about the Otto Sam case, the teachers’ case, the public service union case…,” the counsel stated, “All of them the Government has suffered crushing legal defeat and at each turn it continues in the same pattern.”
“What this shows is that this Government, once it locks its teeth into an issue or an individual it is prepared to attempt to economically assassinate that person, to grind them to the ground, to ensure that they are left sometimes penniless,” Thomas continued.
Turning his attention to Samuel’s case once more, he explained, “we know that initially Bigger Biggs’ property was improperly closed down on environmental grounds and now a final assault was to try to take away the man’s property.”
Thomas assured that Samuel’s legal team is there to make sure that this does not happen.
Additionally, the counsel addressed the Government’s need to pay “costs” every time it loses in a court matter.
“The Government has had a stiff-necked wrong-headed approach to this whole question,” the attorney posited. “It loses and it simply neglects what the court mandates, what the court demands. It simply says “to hell with the court.”
He submitted that it was a clear pattern, but some have to stand up. He also indicated that he was proud of ‘Bigger Biggs’ that he finally decided to take the matter to court and demand his rights.
Responding to a question from the media on whether it makes sense to continue to bring these cases to the court given this approach of the state, Thomas stated that it makes a lot of sense.
“Democracy dies in the dark, so you have to shine the light, the torchlight, the legal light, into dark corners of state action and every time a case is brought, and every time the Government attempts to defend it and fails, its rule of law, due process bona fides are brought into question,” he commented.
“…More and more people, one by one, village by village, across the country would begin to question whether this Government is prepared to respond to the demands of the court and to live according to the constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Thomas contemplated.