THA chief secretary asks court to strike out AG’s claim against Duke

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine – Jeff K. Mayers

ON the same day attorneys for deputy chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly Watson Duke filed an application to have the Attorney General’s interpretation claim against him struck out, a similar application was filed on behalf of Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and the assembly.

Attorneys for Augustine and the THA filed the application on Wednesday against the AG’s claim, which seeks to have the court clarify the law as it related to Duke’s THA appointment while still being head of the Public Services Association (PSA) and a member of the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB).

Duke has resigned from both positions, as well as his substantive job at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), from which he had been on leave of absence since November 2009.

Duke says he has not started work as deputy chief secretary nor been assigned a portfolio to head a division of the THA.

In the application for Augustine and the THA, the judge assigned the matter is being asked to strike out the December 16 claim against the two or dismiss it on the ground that it is academic and an abuse of process.

The application set out the complaint against the interpretation claim, saying it did not follow pre-action protocols and the Chief Secretary and the assembly had been given insufficient notice.

“The factual premise of the claim was based upon the second defendant, Mr Watson Duke, being elected as deputy chief secretary while at the same time holding the positions of president of the Public Service Association (PSA) and member of the Registration Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB).”

It said after the claim was filed, Duke gave notice of his resignation as president of the PSA and before it was filed, on December 9, he had already resigned from the RRCB.

“The first (THA) and third (Augustine) defendants contend, given the aforementioned resignations, that there is no practical and/or useful benefit to the public if these proceedings were to continue.

“The instant claim has now become academic/hypothetical and therefore ought not to further engage the attention of the honourable court and/or should not be permitted to consume the resources of the honourable court or that of the first and third defendants.”

Augustine and the assembly are represented by a team of attorneys including former AGs Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and John Jeremie, SC; Lesley Grey and Kiel Taklalsingh.

The application said both the assembly and its chief secretary were currently facing serious challenges relating to the covid19 pandemic and stabilising the financial position of the THA.

So, it argued, “While these defendants are willing to assist the honourable court in any way, they ought not to be required to do so where the issues have become academic and hypothetical.”

The application said the underlying factual basis for the State’s claim no longer existed.

“If the claim were to proceed, the first and third defendant would be forced to expend already scarce financial and other resources to participate in the instant claim and assist the honourable court in resolving an issue which is no longer of any practical benefit to the parties in this claim or in the public interest.”

It also said attorneys wrote to the State asking for the matter to be discontinued but it refused to do so.

In response to that letter, the legal director in the AG’s secretariat Tenille Ramkissoon told Taklalsingh she disagreed with his clients’ position,outlined ten reasons why the claim was not academic and insisted it would not be withdrawn.

Ramkissoon also said the AG has refused to accept the media reports that Duke had resigned from the PSA and the RRCB.