2916390
Dr Avinash Sawh, when he apologised for his controversial remarks during a virtual press conference on Wednesday 11 November 2020.

Dr Avinash Sawh has lost a bid to challenge the decision of the Medical Board of T&T to not make a member of the tribunal, investigating alleged racist remarks made by him, recuse herself because her husband is a veteran African rights and Black Power Movement activist.

In an oral decision at the end of an emergency virtual hearing yesterday afternoon, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad rejected an injunction application by Dr Sawh’s legal team to stop the work of the disciplinary tribunal pending determination of a lawsuit over the rejected recusal move.

Justice Seepersad also denied Sawh leave to pursue the judicial review lawsuit, as he said it was devoid of merit, frivolous and vexatious.

“There is nothing to convince this court that this case has a reasonable prospect of success,” he said.

“It (the application) was not only divisive but destructive,” Seepersad said, as he criticised Sawh’s legal team for seeking to have the application heard as an emergency during the weekend.

Sawh came under public scrutiny late last year after a voice recording of an alleged conversation between him and an employee was shared on social media. In the conversation, Sawh referred to policemen as “dunce n—ers” and Afro-Trinidadians as “monkeys”.

Following the backlash, Sawh publicly apologised to the woman and members of the public who were offended by his comments.

The Medical Board wrote to Sawh and informed him that several complaints had been made against him, but failed to include the original complaint forms as required.The board withdrew its initial correspondence and on February 10, decided to hold an inquiry into the allegations that Sawh was guilty of two charges of “infamous and disgraceful” conduct.

On August 24, Sawh’s lawyers wrote to the board calling for the recusal of a veteran attorney on the basis that her husband is a prominent and leading Afro-centric rights and repatriations advocate. Almost two weeks later, the Tribunal rejected the objection, leading to the lawsuit before Seepersad.

Presenting submissions on behalf of the board, attorney Rajiv Persad accepted that the attorney would have had to recuse herself if her husband was part of the group that made the complaints against Sawh or if he had commented on the case in the public domain. However, he noted that neither occurred.

Persad also pointed out that extensive information about the activism background of the attorney’s husband, which was included in the proposed lawsuit, were not raised with the board when Sawh requested the recusal and was refused. During the hearing, Seepersad pointed out that the tribunal had to consider whether Sawh’s apology was sufficient and not whether his comments were racist.

“Any right thinking citizen living in this cosmopolitan society such as ours would take deference to or object to such comments,” Seepersad said. “They were inappropriate, unacceptable, have no place in our society and must be rejected outright.”

The first hearing of the tribunal was scheduled for 2 pm yesterday but had to be postponed as the application before Seepersad was heard around 3.30 pm.