Just days after issuing a notice that it would abide by a High Court decision, the Equal Opportunity Tribunal said chairman Donna Powell-Raphael intends to appeal an order allowing attorney Veera Bhajan to take up her presidentially appointed role as a lay assessor.
In a statement today, the Tribunal said while it doesn’t intend to challenge the orders, it will appeal the decision:
“Although the Tribunal does not intend to challenge the orders pronounced by the Judge, the Chairman on the advice of her attorneys, headed by Senior Counsel Mr Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, intends to immediately file an appeal against the orders made against the Chairman by Justice Quinlan-Williams on the grounds that the judge made serious errors of law which precipitated erroneous declarations and awards of damages.”
“Senior Counsel advised that the judge had no jurisdiction because no sustainable claim with a cause of action to obtain damages was pleaded.”
“He further advised that the awards were inconsistent with established principles of law and that the adverse comments made against the Chairman were unsupported by any evidence in the case.”
The Tribunal said there was no mention of discrimination in the legal matter.
“It is critical to note, that at no time in the pleadings for these proceedings, were any allegations of discrimination on the basis of race and or disability or hate, (now being mooted) raised by attorneys for the claimant. Hence there was neither necessity nor reason for the Tribunal and or the Chairman to consider and or defend these scandalous and unfounded suggestions.”
Further, the Tribunal said the practice of not paying lay assessors until they take up their position is “in keeping with traditional practice”:
“The practice at the Tribunal not to pay public officers from the dates of their appointment, is in keeping with the traditional practice that exists in many government departments.”
“Specifically, that public officers are paid from the date of their assumption of public office and not from the dates of their appointments.
“Further, there have been no official government directions changing this practice that is still widespread in the public service.”
The Tribunal said there was no communication with Bhajan because of a lack of internet and phone services:
“The unchallenged facts put forward by the Tribunal was that the Tribunal was closed, because of the numerous challenges it faced (no internet, no phone service and unsafe conditions and improper ventilation etc.) and therefore the appointment could not be facilitated.”
The Tribunal maintained it “did nothing injudicious”:
“The Tribunal has done nothing injudicious. In fact, the Tribunal has always been guided by best practices and mature, reasoned legal and professional advice in these proceedings.
“The actions of the Chairman have and continue to be consistently intended to protect the independence and survival of the Tribunal, its finances and the well-being of its staff in keeping with the oath of office “without fear or favour”.”
On Tuesday, High Court judge Avason Quinlan-Williams ordered that Bhajan be allowed to take up her role, along with a payment of $100,000 to be paid by Powell-Raphael for the humiliation Bhajan faced, along with legal fees.
Bhajan, who was born without arms, had been appointed as a lay assessor to the Tribunal by President Paula Mae-Weekes in March 2021.
However, legal action was later filed after she was unable to take up her position.
Bhajan is an Attorney-at-law who specialises in Civil Law including Corporate, Commercial, Contract, Employment and Probate Law.