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Jul 2, 2008

Supreme Court rules in favour of former Social Security Chief

Story PictureLate this evening Narda Garcia, the former chief of the Social Security Board, scored victory in the Supreme Court in a long drawn out case that began in 2006 when she was dismissed as General Manager of Social Security on recommendations of the Senate Select Committee. Attorney Elson Kaseke, representing Garcia, filed a motion in the Supreme Court asking that the committee’s report be quashed on fourteen grounds and after many ups and downs and a decision that took three months to be handed down, this evening, Justice Samuel Awich made his ruling and agreed with one of the points that Kaseke argued; that following the Select Committee’s investigations over loan securitisations, they failed to provide her with the gist of their recommendations of what they were going to present to the Senate. Kaseke explained to television reporters that while they did not win on all fourteen points, it was a significant victory.

Elson Kaseke, Attorney for Narda Garcia
“The effect of the judgement was that the senate in power to appoint to appoint the senate committee pursuant to its resolution but the judge also meant declaration that the rights of Miss Garcia to natural justice were broken by the senate committee when it met its recommendations against her without affording her the right to controvert those recommendations.”

Marion Ali
“But the ruling was only made in favour of one of the claims which she put her case forward. Do you consider it a win or a lose or maybe somewhere in between?”

Elson Kaseke
“If you’d go to court asking for eight declaration as we did and you get one declaration which basically offends our point from the very beginning, that this thing was done illegally, that natural justice was not observed, that her rights were breached, I think it was a significant win. A year ago people were saying Miss Garcia was head by the committee, the committee found that she had done all these things herself in the board, but now the Supreme Court has clarified that in fact, the recommendations and conclusions of the committee were arrived at in breach of the rights of Mrs Garcia to natural justice, which is a significant, significant win in these types of cases.”

“The declaration which was made by the court exonerates her completely from that Social Security Board. I think it also contributes to principles of good governance. It is not an answer for politicians or anyone involved in the public service or the public sector nowadays to seek to do a quick fix-it and get quick results and appease the public, which in my respectful opinion, might be something that was done here. The court has declared that look you have to accord people their rights to natural justice when you are going to make recommendations against them, you have to make them get the gist of the recommendations which you are going to make and let them respond and controvert those recommendations.”

“It’s like yourself being tried by a court, being convicted, and not being given the right to be heard. If the court comes out strongly and says that your rights were infringed because you were not given the rights to be heard, that nullifies the entire thing. Likewise, since the Committee did not hear Miss Garcia properly according to the court, provide her with the gist of the recommendations, that means that the declaration that the judge made that her rights as against the committee, were breached, nullifies their report as far as she is concerned.”

Jacqueline Godwin, Channel Seven
“How is your client feeling after today’s judgment?”

Elson Kaseke
“You see that a lot of it was legal language in there, I have explained to her now the effect of the judgment, that because the report of the senate committee had several components to it, most of which—like the judge says “only one aspect told on her—most of which consisted of recommendations in improving the governance at the S.S.B., that the judge said we are not going to quash the report per say, but we are simply going to make a declaration that in respect of that portion of that report which related to her, it was done in breach of her rights and is therefore null and void.”

In a thirty page affidavit, Garcia outlined that her natural rights were breached because the committee did not provide her with a copy of the auditor’s report, did not tell her that she had the right to bring a lawyer to the public hearings nor that she could have cross examined other witnesses. Kaseke, who was at the time the Solicitor General, provided legal counsel to the members of the Senate Select Committee. Then Senators, Godwin Hulse, Dickie Bradley, Reverend Moises Chan and Rene Gomez recommended that Garcia be dismissed from her post as General Manager of the S.S.B. based on their probes into the financial affairs of the fund. Garcia did not offer comments following today’s ruling on Kaseke’s advice or did Priscilla Banner who received the judgment on behalf of the office of the Solicitor General. The case for the Solicitor General was presented by Andrea McSweeney and Solicitor General, Tanya Longsworth Herwanger.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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