Serious concerns have been raised at Trinidad and Tobago's Consulate General in Miami, Florida, USA over the firing of an immigration employee, over the issue of qualifications, and the refusal of Consul General Dr Anil Ramnanan to reinstate the worker even after being instructed to do so by the Ministry of National Security.
Not only is Ramnanan refusing to obey the clear instructions of the acting permanent secretary of the National Security Ministry Sandra Lynch in a letter dated October 10, 2012, he has also alerted the consulate's security officials as well as the Miami Dade police to forcibly remove the employee should he show up on the premises.
The worker at the centre of the matter is clerical support assistant Joseph Ronalds of the Machine Readable Passport/Immigration Section of the Consulate.
He was hired by Ramnanan on April 1, 2011 for a period of two years. Reynolds' contract was due to end on March 31, 2013.
Adamant that he is right in terminating Ronalds' employment, Ramnanan has threatened to bring Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar into the imbroglio, as well as the head of T&T's Special Branch ACP Ann Marie Alleyne.
This is the fourth instance of trouble to surface at Trinidad and Tobago foreign missions within recent time.
Former ambassador to the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, was recalled from the post in August.
Another such instance was the shocking dismissal of eight workers from the T&T Consulate in New York in July.
Like their fellow employees at the New York consulate, the Miami employees have written to T&T's Ambassador to Washington DC Dr Neil Parsan, who has jurisdiction over the all the consulates in the US to intervene in the matter.
But Parsan, a veterinarian by profession, and the nephew of Cabinet minister Chandresh Sharma has recently had to answer questions of his own following the whopping $700,000 renovation of his Embassy earlier this year.
Parsan undertook the reconstruction work, which was featured in the July/August 2011 issue of US architectural magazine Home and Design, shortly after he took office in February 2011, and was criticised by some who felt that taxpayers' monies were being wasted to upkeep the posh lifestyles of some foreign diplomats.
But this latest episode involving Ronalds could end up in the courts. In fact, acting PS Lynch warned Ramnanan that the grounds for dismissal as indicated by him in a circular of memorandum dated September 5, 2012, "would be difficult to succeed in the event of any litigious action".
According to documents received by the Sunday Express, Ramnanan notified Ronalds on September 7, 2012 that his employment was terminated with immediate effect, for failing to provide evidence of his qualifications for the job, as spelt out by Cabinet minute No 1499 dated November 25, 2012 (sic).
He said Ronalds' persistent refusal gave an "irresistible inference" that he did not have the required minimum qualifications adding that he had "fraudulently misrepresented your qualifications" to get the job.
As a result of this, Ramnanan told Ronalds that his contract was null and void and thereof, "I am constrained to invoke my power of summary dismissal."
He also advised Ronalds that he will be seeking advice to recover the salaries paid to him since April 1, 2011. Ronalds was paid a monthly salary of US$2,900 a month.
Acting PS Lynch in her advice to the Consul General reminded him that by memorandum dated March 10, 2011, the ministry had waived Ronalds' lack of qualifications since he had the necessary experience.
"The Ministry of National Security was made aware, and offered no objection to, the fact that at the time of hiring Mr Ronalds consideration was given to his experience as a licensed customs clerk Grade 111 with ten years working experience with shipping agencies both in the United States and in Trinidad and Tobago, and it is interpreted that this combination of skills and experience was deemed equivalent to the GCE/CXC certification of five subject," acting PS Lynch said.
She told Ramnanan that in the circumstances and having regard to the remit of the Ministry of National Security to pay clerical support staff officers attached to the immigration office of the Consulate, it was the ministry's view that Ronalds should be "reinstated in his position since there appears to be no other circumstances warranting his dismissal".
Not only has he refused to do this, but Ramnanan has dismissed the PS's claim of experience in lieu of qualifications, saying that neither the Consul General nor the ministry had the authority to issue a contract of employment to the officer without the necessary minimum qualifications, since the Cabinet Minute 1449 of 2010 asked for five CXC/GCE subjects.
"In these circumstances I am of the view that to accede to your request to reinstate Mr Joseph Ronalds would involve a direct challenge to the clear, unambiguous and express intentions of Cabinet," he told Lynch in a letter dated October 13, 2012.
He reminded her as well that he had full authority as consul general for overall management of the operations of the Consulate General and further warned the head of Chancery/accounting officer Joanna Ross of the Miami consulate that Ronalds not be reinstated, adding that the purported reinstatement of Ronalds was contrary to the intentions of the Cabinet.
Ramnanan advised PS Lynch that he would write to the PM, and to the ministers of National Security and Foreign Affairs with a view to have the situation resolved but in the interim, he had taken the necessary steps to use security personnel (if necessary) to prevent the officer from entering the compound.
While acting PS Lynch of the National Security Ministry could not be reached for comment, PS Foreign Affairs Margaret Parillon said last week she was on vacation out of the country and referred all queries to her ministry.
Ramnanan, meanwhile has refused to comment on the matter. When contacted last Thursday, he told the Sunday Express: "All enquiries in this matter must be referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
I don't know what information you may have but this matter should be addressed by the Ministry."
Reminded that he claimed to have overall responsibility for the consulate, and therefore should be the one to respond to queries on the matter, Dr Ramnanan insisted that all queries be referred to Parillon.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, in response to a number of questions from the Sunday Express confirmed that he has checked into the matter.
"The Ministry is aware of the situation and the fact that this person (Ronalds) did not submit his qualifications as he had agreed too," he said.
Dookeran added that it was on that basis that the action was taken to dismiss him.
"They (Consulate) had a directive, to make sure the qualifications were met and this directive was given by Cabinet," Dookeran explained.
Asked whether he supported the decision to fire Ronalds, Dookeran said he was merely stating the "facts".
"I am aware that there were some issues with the Ministry of National Security, but there is a Cabinet directive on the issue of qualifications."
He promised however to "keep monitoring the matter".