Ombudsman Winston Moore ruled that Freddie Kissoon, a former lecturer at the University of Guyana (UG) was wrongfully dismissed by the tertiary institution. He recommended that UG should compensate Kissoon.
However, Technical Advisor on Tertiary Education, Vincent Alexander is contending that adherence to the Ombudsman’s advice is not mandatory.
He told this publication yesterday that even though Kissoon’s dismissal was said to be wrong, which he agrees with, he does not believe that it was “illegal.”
He recalled that Kissoon, who is also a columnist with the Kaieteur News, was on a contract with UG, but that contract was abruptly terminated on January 18, 2012.This was despite the fact that Kissoon had five months remaining on his contract, at the end of which, he would have reached the age of retirement.
The University had said that it merely ended the contract earlier. The contract stipulated that it could be terminated and three months’ salary is to be paid in lieu of notice.
Despite several efforts by Kissoon, University officials did not tell the lecturer why his contract was terminated prematurely.
Following a complaint lodged last year with the Office of the Ombudsman, UG was notified that Kissoon’s contract termination breached UG’s regulations and that he should be compensated.
Ombudsman Winston Moore, in a letter dated December 22, 2014, to now retired Registrar, Vincent Alexander, stated, “This office has been advised that Mr. Kissoon was wrongfully dismissed, his dismissal being in breach of Statute 25 of the University of Guyana Statutes which provides for notice and a hearing, as pre-conditions for dismissal. In the circumstances, Mr. Kissoon is entitled to compensation from the University.”
Alexander however clarified that while the letter was addressed to him, he had ceased work at the University by December 22, last.
He said, “My last working day at UG was December 23, 2014. In preparation for a seamless handing-over I had ceased, over a month prior to December 23, 2014, receiving any correspondence and or dealing with any new matter. That letter might have been addressed to me but, in the circumstances…, would not have been directed to me.”
Since the Ombudsman disclosed his judgment on the matter, no action has been taken by the institution to compensate Kissoon.
In a statement to the media yesterday, Alexander contended that the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction is restricted to matters of maladministration or wrongdoing that is not justifiable.
He said, “He could only have concluded that Kissoon was unfairly dismissed. With that view, I concur. While an organization is not compelled to act on the advisory of the Ombudsman, it may be acted on in the interest of justice/fairness.”
He continued, “The equally fundamental role of the Ombudsman is to submit an annual report to the National Assembly, which may bring to the attention of the lawmakers, lacunae in the law. In this instance, the lacuna is the absence of provisions in our laws, for the termination of employment by the employer, to be effected only when cause is proffered. It is for the legislators to determine whether or not they accepted that there is a lacuna and if so whether it should be plugged.”
The former UG Registrar said that it is for Parliament to now decide how it will act with regard to this matter so that future cases can have firmer ground for legal redress as opposed to relying on discretionary justice.
But Alexander’s view on adherence to the Ombudsman’s recommendations is a bit different from those held by Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.
Roopnaraine believes that the Council of the University of Guyana (UG) should obey the Ombudsman’s report.
Roopnaraine had told Kaieteur News in an interview on Friday night that if the findings continue to be handled in a “Casual” manner, then the institution could be showing disregard for the importance of the Ombudsman’s office and its purpose as the protector of the citizens’ rights.
The Minister of Education also noted that he feels so passionately about dealing with the matter expeditiously that he will make a case for it through his two representatives on the UG Council.
Roopnaraine had said, “This really is an unacceptable state of affairs and it should not be encouraged any longer. I don’t want to give the impression however, that UG is one of the schools that I can just exert my influence on and have my decisions or plans implemented. It does not work like that.
“The University of Guyana is an independent institution and everything for it is dealt with through the Council. I, of course, can exercise some influence, if I have a case to make on a matter, through my extremely competent and experienced representatives. Those two persons are my Technical Advisor on Tertiary Education, Mr. Vincent Alexander and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Miss Delma Nedd.”
Roopnaraine said, “The Ombudsman’s findings should not be taken in a casual manner and I will be pushing for this. I do believe that it is important for the Freddie Kissoon matter to be dealt and through my representatives on the Council I will be making a strong case for it.”