After nearly eight years at the helm of this country’s monetary authority, the Court of Appeal today gave clearance for Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler to show Dr DeLisle Worrell the door, as it rejected not one, but two appeals made by the Governor’s attorney for him to stay on at the Central Bank.
The bitter high-profile dispute came up for adjudication at 10:30 a.m before Acting Chief Justice Sandra Mason and fellow justices of Appeal Andrew Burgess and Kaye Goodridge. However, after hearing four hours of arguments by the two sides, the three-member panel dismissed all attempts to further stall Worrell’s departure from the helm of the country’s monetary authority.
This morning the Governor did not appear to be the same upbeat mood in which he greeted reporters last week at the start of the court battle.
In fact, there was little expression on his face as he sat quietly, at times bowing his head, for much of the day’s proceedings as his attorney Gregory Nicholls sought to convince the three-member panel that High Court Justice Randall Worrell had “erred” in lifting an earlier injunction, which had barred Sinckler from taking any further action to remove the Governor.
In Worrell’s defence, Nicholls pointed out that Sinckler, in responding to the affidavit filed by him on behalf of his client, had stated that the relationship between the Governor and himself and the Governor and the board of the Central Bank had broken down; therefore if a situation were allowed to continue it could be “damaging” for the economy.
However, in rejecting that argument, Nicholls said the minister did not give any particulars to support or corroborate his contention.
“The public interest requires . . . the unexplained basis on which he wants to exercise his rights,” contended Nicholls, who was supported by co-counsel Brian Weekes, Rene Butcher and Janice Brown.
And as he had argued in the previous two court hearings on the matter, the Governor’s lead attorney insisted that the Minister did not follow due process when he issued his “threatened ultimatum”.
“[We are not arguing] whether the Minister had the contractual power to terminate. It is whether the circumstances give rise to the propitious and just use of power delegated to the minister under the laws of Barbados,” he stressed.
Under the circumstances and in “the upmost public interest”, Nicholls said it was appropriate for the injunction to continue.
“So that a power aggregated under the Minister by way of contract could not be used to abuse and omit proper procedures in the Central Bank Act that could potentially do irreparable harm to the office holder, the integrity of the bank and the international reputation of Barbados,” the attorney argued during his two hour-long submission.
In response, Solicitor General Jennifer Edwards, QC, who is representing Sinckler, maintained that Justice Worrell gave full consideration to the entire affidavit. including the “wider public interest” .
Edwards also pointed out that the Minister of Finance was impowered under the Act to “revoke” or “terminate” the Governor’s contract. However, she maintained that the 72-year-old Governor, who was first appointed to the job back in 2009, had not been fired by Sinckler.
“There was a conversation, but there has been no action by the Minister under the contract . . . which he has the authority to make under Section 11 [to take],” she said.
However, she left the door opem for Sinckler to dismiss the Governor, saying if the minister were to follow through then there would be no prejudice to the Worrell, as he would be awarded damages.
“There will be no breach if the contract were to be terminated. The Governor has no cause of action to take because there was no action . . . the minister simply had a conversation with him . . . he had a fear coming from that conversation,” she said.
As for Sinckler, the Solicitor General said her client had a responsibility to the economy and if the relationship with the Governor had broken down then his work would be “frustrated”.
“The Central Bank of Barbados is an institution. I don’t think because one person goes it will collapse. One person cannot be the institution. The institution is the institution,” Edwards argued.
After 15 minutes of deliberation on the arguments, the Justices of Appeal delivered their decision around 4:15 p.m., saying they would issue their reasons for turning down the appeal on March 3.
With that decision, Nicholls wasted no time in putting in another application to have the another injunction in order for the “status quo” to remain so his side could take the matter to the Trinidad based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – which is the country’s final court of appeal.
However that too was denied, after Edwards objected saying Worrell and his attorneys could not keep seeking injunctions to “frustrate the contract”.
“We are disappointed, we thought that we had a fairly solid case,” Nicholls told the media afterwards.
He said he now had to confer with his co- counsels and client, but suggested that an appeal to the CCJ could be made as early as tomorrow.
“[The Governor] is content with the proceedings today and that we have put our best foot forward and he is resolute that his objective is to ensure that there is a steady hand at the Central Bank in this most difficult time in Barbados,” Nicholls said on behalf of his client, who declined to give comment on the decision.
When approached by reporters Worrell simply shook his head and smiled as he left the Supreme Court complex on White Park road through a side entrance.
In the meantime there was no sign of Sinckler in or around the court.