THE silence from the United National Congress has become deafening as details emerge of the professional dealings of one of its frontline senators, attorney Gerald Ramdeen.
As reported in an exclusive series of Sunday Express investigative reports, Mr Ramdeen successfully sued the State on behalf of Guillaume Merrick, a homeless man who was jailed for six months on a charge of marijuana possession but was not released on the due date.
In 2008, Merrick was awarded $35,000 in damages for unlawful imprisonment which, on appeal, were increased to $200,000.
The damages to Merrick were paid in separate cheques by the State and issued in Ramdeen’s name. Both were collected and deposited into Ramdeen’s account. The first, paid during the appeal period, was for $50,250 and covered the initial damages award of $35,000 along with special damages and prescribed costs. The second cheque was for $322,691.12.
Merrick is said to have made repeated efforts to collect his money in the nine years between the initial award and last November, when he died without having seen a cent of his money.
On July 6, in the midst of the Sunday Express investigation, Ramdeen sent a manager’s cheque for $342,777.86 to attorney Mark Seepersad, from whom Merrick had also sought representation in the vain attempt to get the court-ordered damages. The cheque was made out to “Uric Merrick”, the informal name by which Ramdeen’s late client was known and who, it was already widely known, had been dead for almost eight months. Not surprisingly, Seepersad sent back the cheque.
Galvanised by the Sunday Express reporting, Merrick’s daughter has begun speaking out about the family’s repeated but failed attempts to recover her father’s money before his death. Now, with the case back in focus, they are intent on seeking justice.
Following the Sunday Express reports, Ramdeen claimed he had published ads in a vain attempt to locate Merrick to pay the money to him. Merrick’s family say if ads were indeed published, they saw none.
This issue cannot be allowed to just slink away. Whatever other facts may emerge, it remains indisputable that a horrible injustice was done to Guillaume Merrick, a dispossessed member of the underclass. This matter calls to mind a number of issues involving disturbing practices among members of the legal profession which have long been whispered about regarding clients’ money, land and other property. It also points to the need for urgent review of the process by which damages are paid to ensure no person to whom damages are due ever again slips through the cracks, whether by sins of omission or commission.
Meanwhile, this newspaper’s attempt to get a response from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the allegations surrounding a senior Opposition senator continues to be met with silence. Having chosen to appoint him to the Senate with several questions over his head, including the so-called Prisongate affair, the UNC leader may be hoping to tough out this one as well. However, she should recognise her party cannot sustain its moral outrage on any issue as long as this matter hangs over Senator Ramdeen.