Ex-Central Bank governor wins dismissal case against Imbert

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, (left) leaves the San Fernando High Court, in January 2020, with his client ex-Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran (right) after a hearing of the lawsuit Rambarran filed against Finance Minister Colm Imbert for wrongful dismissal. –

A High Court judge has ruled former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran’s dismissal in 2015 was illegal.

Justice Devindra Rampersad also ruled Rambarran’s termination as governor was in breach of the Constitution and has ordered the former governor be paid his salary from the date of his dismissal to July 16, 2017, when his tenure would have come to an end if he had not been fired. The judge also ordered vindicatory damages in the sum of $175,000.

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 who delivered the ruling virtually on Wednesday.

In his ruling, Rampersad referenced the Central Bank Act and the Financial Institutions Act which, he said, prescribed a remedy if either section was breached for summary court proceedings to be instituted.

“The process by which the appointment was revoked was seriously flawed,” and “was in clear breach of the law,” the judge ruled, adding that Rambarran’s dismissal went against the principles of natural justice.

Rambarran was fired as Central Bank governor on December 23, 2015, after his appointment was revoked by acting president Christine Kangaloo on the advice of the Cabinet. He was 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, labelling 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 following 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.

In his ruling, the judge was critical of Imbert. He said when he met with Rambarran, the minister had already obtained legal opinions from three out of four people. These, he said, were not presented to the court, but the minister, in his affidavit, said Rambarran’s actions, the bank’s statement, and the national furore that ensued, as well as his own “grave concern,” led to him seeking the opinions.

“What he does not say is whether these opinions supported his contention that the claimant had broken the law and if so, what law and whether these opinions supported his ability or power or jurisdiction, or that of Cabinet, to summarily reach a judgment on an issue that the statutes prescribed to be judicially determined.”

Rampersad voiced concerns about the failure to “properly lay the Government’s hand on the table as is prescribed in public law matters.”

“The minister did not put to the claimant, in any way whatsoever, that he had misconducted himself in such a way as to warrant his removal or failed to carry out his duties and functions much less for giving him an opportunity to respond to that. Instead, there was a meeting held on an uneven playing field with the minister holding his intention and his legal opinions undisclosed and close to his chest.

“All he wanted was confirmation that the press release reflected the claimant’s position without saying why. It is clear that he did not want any drawn-out confrontation by disclosing his intention because the newspaper reports attached to his affidavit quoted the claimant as saying he would fight any attempt to remove him. That was unfair,” the judge said in his 75-page decision.

Rampersad referred to transcripts of Rambarran’s meeting with Imbert, saying it suggested there was a “skirting reference” to the allegations of breach of confidentiality.

He added, “At the end of the day, whether what the claimant did was in fact a breach is not an issue for this court’s determination.”

“…Instead of being full and frank with the claimant, the minister hid his true intentions in the meeting that they had on December 22, 2015, thereby depriving the claimant of the opportunity to disabuse him of the findings on the law which the minister sought to rely on.

Rambarran, who filed a series of other legal proceedings, had accused Imbert of sabotaging his appointment as a senior adviser with the US G-24 Secretariat because of a political and personal vendetta. Rambarran said the director of the G-24, Marilou Uy, sought Imbert’s feedback on the secretariat’s selection. He was ranked as the highest candidate by a shortlisting panel, a selection panel from G-24 member countries at the IMF and World Bank, and experts from both institutions.

Rampersad said the court has no doubt that the minister’s e-mail “is not only unfair but it was also misleading.”

“The court recognises that a person giving a recommendation is not compelled to give a good recommendation but must give a fair one. In this circumstance, the email suggests that what was sent was not fair.”

However, the judge said had Rambarran not been fired, there was nothing to suggest he would have applied for the G-24 position nor was there sufficient evidence that Rambarran became unemployable. He said for these reasons, he could not order further compensatory damage for financial loss other than what he lost for the unlawful termination of his post as governor.

He has given the Central Bank until July 6 to calculate what is owed to Rambarran, less deductions, including income tax. The judge also ordered the State to pay Rambarran’s costs as well as interest on the damages ordered at a rate of 2.5 per cent from January 19, 2019, when he filed his lawsuit, to June 22, 2022.

Rambarran was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Kent Samlal, Natasha Bisram, and Vishaal Siewsarran. Representing the Attorney General were Russell Martineau, SC, Jason Mootoo, and Romney Thomas.