In an about turn from previous public statements in which they claimed to be unaware of National Quarries’ (NQ) chairman Mitra Ramkhelawan’s decision to suspend the company’s chief executive Sandra Fernandez, directors Satee Chillar and Shivanand Dubay have now joined other members of the board to issue another statement, saying the suspension was justified.
One director, Gregory Nurse, resigned from the board on Wednesday.
One day after she had reported an alleged fraud cover-up taking place to hide the acquisition of equipment at the State company to the police, Fernandez was issued a letter of suspension from Ramkhelawan citing her qualifications for the job. She was hired out of the Caura Hospital to be NQ’s chief executive by Ramkhelawan and has been in the position for the past two years.
On October 11, Dubay had told the Express in a telephone interview: “As far as I am aware, the CEO has not been suspended. There is no reason for it. I will have to look into it.”
On October 12, Chillar, also in a telephone interview told the Express that the decision to suspend the CEO was solely that of Ramkhelawan and the board was not consulted on the matter.
She had said she received notice of the suspension via an e-mail sent out by the chairman at 11 p.m. last Thursday night.
A police investigation is also currently underway to determine who authorised a Chaguanas-based police officer to twice visit Fernandez’s St Joseph home to deliver a suspension letter on October 10 and another letter on October 16.
The officer has since been transferred but police Supt Johnny Abraham is investigating on whose orders an officer under his jurisdiction was acting to deliver the letters.
A published statement issued yesterday, attributed to the NQ board, which also includes Neil Joe Sirpu, Nassa Hosein, Perry Polar, Alban Scott and Varsha Sieurajsingh, said: “The members stated they were in fact notified of the circumstances and agreed to the decision to issue the suspension, given the fact that the CEO failed to meet the request to provide support for claims made in her CV, and as of today the company is still unable to verify her credentials.
The members wish to publicly state that the suspension is justified and advised that while they are confident of the chairman’s rights as the executive voice of the board between meetings, it is important that the public is made aware of the fact that the board is entirely supportive of the decision made and remains united in addressing the challenges facing the company at this time.”
“I deeply regret having to take the decision to suspend Miss Fernandez but given the circumstances, I had no other choice,” said Ramkhelawan in the statement.
In an interview with the Express on September 17, Ramkhelawan had defended Fernandez after the Express had asked about her qualifications for the job given that her last job was based at a hospital and not in an organisation such as NQ.
Ramkhelawan had said her qualification for the job was her accounting background.
“She’s made more money than any CEO in the history of this company. The qualification is the bottom line, not idiots with PhDs who can’t do one thing. It’s the bottom line. Can you get the job done? Can you turn around the company? That is the qualification,” he had said.