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Grave injustice to victim

Published: 
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

As an Angostura boycott looms, attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj has called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to ensure allegations of sexual harassment and indecent assault at the company are properly investigated.

His call came three weeks after the company dismissed reports of sexual harassment and indecent assault against chairman Dr Rolph Balgobin, which were levelled against him by a female executive in November 2016.

The incidents were alleged to have taken place on August 17 and September 14, 2016. The complaint was filed to the Angostura audit committee and the board of its parent company, CL Financial Ltd (CLF), under its whistleblower policy.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference at his San Fernando office yesterday, Maharaj said Angostura did not conduct a proper investigation and the dismissal of the allegations constituted a breach of the employment contract.

“Angostura has not complied with its whistleblowers policy in conducting a genuine investigation. The whistleblower policy, at Clause 4:1, required Angostura to conduct a thorough investigation,” Maharaj said.

Since the dismissal of her complaint, Maharaj said the employee had fallen ill because of reprisals at the workplace.

“The senior employee is entitled to have her complaint properly and fairly investigated. A grave injustice has been done to her and this injustice ought not to be allowed to continue,” he said.

Maharaj said after the allegations were made Angostura saw it fit to appoint the Diana Mahabir-Wyatt Investigating Committee to probe the allegations. However, last September at the height of investigations Maharaj said Angostura brought in retired Judge Rolston Nelson, who later terminated the committee and submitted a report which led to the dismissal of allegations.

“Angostura’s decision to terminate the appointment of the committee constitutes unfairness,” Maharaj said, adding that Nelson did not hear the sworn evidence of Balgobin and wrote a report without the benefit of hearing Balgobin be cross examined by the employee’s attorneys.

Saying Angostura was a public company listed on the Stock Exchange, Maharaj called on Government to take action.

“The Government has a duty to intervene and to demonstrate that it values the rights of women not to be sexually harassed and assaulted at the workplace. We therefore call upon the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, as head of the Cabinet, to take the appropriate steps to ensure that the investigation which was in progress when it was terminated by Angostura resumes its hearing so that the whistleblowers’ complaint can be thoroughly investigated,” he said.

He noted that the issue was not only important for the employee but for all victims of sexual harassment and indecent assault at the workplace.

“The investigation carried out by Angostura should not be seen or used as a precedent as to how similar investigations ought to be carried out. We call on Angostura to reinstate the employee’s complaint to reject the report of Mr Nelson and to direct that the Diana Mahabir-Wyatt investigation continue and upon completion of its investigation deliver a report to Angostura.”

Angostura’s communications manager Giselle La Ronde-West could not be reached for comment on her office line. A list of questions were sent to her.