FIRED BY E-MAIL
By Jada Loutoo Sunday, October 14 2012
The firing of two of the attorneys representing the Ministry of Finance at the Commission of Inquiry into Colonial Life Insurance Company Ltd (Clico) and the Hindu Credit Union has raised concerns in the legal fraternity.
Sunday Newsday was reliably informed that Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein and Michael Quamina were fired from the legal team representing the ministry on October 5, via e-mail.
The e-mails were sent to the attorneys from the ministry, informing them that their services as legal counsel for the ministry at the commission of inquiry will no longer be required.
No reason was given for their dismissals.
According to ministry sources, an instruction was given to Finance Minister Larry Howai for the two lawyers to be fired and a new team was retained to represent the Ministry of Finance.
Sources said ministry staff who worked with Hosein and Quamina objected to their removal and wrote to Howai indicating their displeasure with the move.
The employees said both Hosein and Quamina worked well with the ministry team and were very knowledgeable on the complexities of matters relating to the Clico/HCU probe. However, it would seem that those complaints fell on deaf ears.
Sunday Newsday was reliably informed that the ministry will now be represented by Law Association president Seenath Jairam, SC, Port Authority chairman and Congress of the People chairman Joseph Toney and Jagdeo Singh, who also sits as junior counsel at the Commission of Inquiry into the July 27, 1990 attempted coup.
When contacted on the matter, Hosein confirmed that he did receive an e-mail informing him of the ministry’s decision to terminate his services as its legal counsel at the inquiry.
“Yes, I can confirm I am no longer counsel for the Ministry of Finance at the commission of inquiry, but that is all I would like to say on the matter,” he told Sunday Newsday.
Also contacted, Quamina too confirmed he had been dismissed by the ministry, and said he had not been told why.
Both men were retained to represent the ministry at the inquiry in May last year. The inquiry resumes on October 22, with evidence being taken on HCU. Evidence hearings for Clico will recommence on October 25 and subsequent hearings will be held in December and February, March, April and May of next year.
As a state entity, the hiring and payment of fees for attorneys in their employ are made by the Office of the Prime Minister and approved by the Office of the Attorney General, after consultation.
Legal sources are, however, questioning whether the move was politically motivated as Hosein is one of the lead counsel on the team for businessman Steve Ferguson and also the Highway Re-Route Movement, which is challenging the Debe to Point Fortin Highway.
He is also said to have had strong ties to former Congress of the People political leader Winston Dookeran, who was also former finance minister when the brief was given to the senior legal practitioner.
Hosein was one of the lawyers whose bills were submitted to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan as part of a Bill of Costs submitted by Ferguson to the State, as Ferguson sought to recover money owed to him by the State in legal matters he had won.
Quamina, meanwhile, is one of the attorneys who has represented former Prime Minister Patrick Manning in several lawsuits and has also appeared as counsel for several entities under the PNM administration, which are now subject to lawsuits filed by the State.
He was also among the lawyers whose briefs on the international criminal investigation against the CL Financial empire were terminated by Ramlogan in July 2010.
A request for a comment from Howai was made by Sunday Newsday, but up until late yesterday there was no response to the e-mailed questions on why the two lawyers were fired and a new team retained with just a little over six months left for the conclusion of the sitting of the Clico/HCU inquiry.