A group of 30 police Sergeants have applied to have an injunction preventing all promotions to the rank of Inspector, obtained by a group of their colleagues, lifted. According to court documents filed and obtained by Guardian Media, the group is seeking to be added to their colleagues’ pending case and to have their injunction lifted or varied so that they can be promoted while their colleagues continue their legal action.
The dispute arose late last year, as the Promotion Advisory Board held interviews with candidates and prepared a merit list for promotions.
The group of officers, led by Police Social and Welfare Association Secretary Sgt Ancil Forde, filed an application for leave to pursue a judicial review lawsuit over the promotion exercise as they claimed that there were several anomalies with a new proportional point system introduced by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith for the examination segment.
They were granted an injunction blocking all promotions by High Court Judge Betsey Ann Lambert-Peterson, which was extended by High Court Judge Robin Mohammed.
In the court filings, the second group’s attorneys, led by Senior Counsel Anand Ramlogan, noted that the injunction, which blocked their clients’ promotions, remains in place while the first group was still awaiting a decision whether they should be granted leave to pursue their lawsuit.
They claimed that the pending leave application was without merit as the Police Commissioner is permitted under the Constitution to make the changes to the promotion procedure complained about.
“Given that more than six months have elapsed since the application for leave was filed, the prejudice and detriment to the applicants/proposed interested parties who have acquired vested rights to promotion based on their position on the Order of Merit List has worsened considerably,” they said.
They said that their clients were concerned that the merit list would expire in December without them being promoted and that they would have to participate in a lengthy promotion procedure once again. They admitted that Griffith is empowered to extend the list by a year but there is no guarantee that he would exercise his discretion to do so.
“The injunction therefore threatens to altogether deprive them of the opportunity to be promoted to the rank of Inspector before they proceed on pre-retirement and retirement leave,” they said.
“This has obvious implications for the gratuity, pension and retirement benefits for these officers and adverse consequences and implications for their standard of living post retirement,” they added.
They also noted that since the dispute arose last year, their clients have been appointed to act in the position.
Attached to the application was a certificate of urgency seeking to justify having it heard urgently during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and an affidavit of one of their clients, Sgt Aslim Hosein, who detailed his personal experience when he learned of the injunction on the day he was due to be promoted.
“I was emotionally distraught. I did not know how to process the fact that I would not be receiving the promotion I worked so diligently towards for so long,” Hosein said.
Hosein also noted that one of his colleagues, who placed high on the merit list, died while awaiting promotion.
“The injunction in question has caused grave, far-reaching effects on the career advancement of all applicants/proposed interested parties in this case. It has effectively paused and/or placed our career advancement in a state of abeyance and vacillation,” Hosein said.
A date for the hearing of the application is yet to be set.
The injunction was mentioned by Griffith this week in a lengthy open letter to all police officers on promotions.
Griffith was allegedly responding to a complaint by Forde, over the Promotion Advisory Board not being properly constituted.
He claimed that the issue with the board was with a member put forward previously by the Ministry of National Security.
Griffith claimed that he only received an objection to the member from the ministry in March after the process was complete.
Griffith accused Forde of using the association to pursue a personal crusade as he claimed that he (Forde) had placed low on the merit list and was unlikely to be promoted in the near future.
“It appears to me, therefore, that his (Forde) motivation and desperation to now file an action and spread discord about the said promotion process he so eagerly accepted when he was last promoted to sergeant, is simply about ensuring that if he doesn’t have his way no one else will,” Griffith said.
“What else can precisely be his motive? It certainly isn’t in the interests of the members since most of the members in line for these promotions now sit above him in order of merit,” Griffith added.
The second group of officers seeking the lift on the injunction are also being represented by Renuka Rambhajan, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Alana Rambaran, Ganesh Saroop and Natasha Bisram.