Rishatha Nicholls, former secretary to Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace, is optimistic that she will again triumph when a tribunal hears on Tuesday an appeal by Eustace regarding an order for him to pay her EC$16,199.99 in severance.
Eustace fired Nicholls last March, and she has won a case before the labour board, which last May ordered Eustace to pay her severance, a ruling that he has appealed.
“It is the same matter. It has not been added to or taken away from,” Nicholls told I-Witness News on Sunday.
But Eustace, in a separate interview on Sunday, suggested that he is prepared to take further action if the tribunal again rules in Nicholls’ favour.
“There are other avenues. It can also go to the court,” he told I-Witness News.
Asked if he is prepared to take the matter to court, Eustace, a former prime minister and minister of finance, told I-Witness News, “I am not going into all of that, quite frankly.
“I know all the comments that are being made, I have avoided [commenting] because I don’t see this as a matter that requires that. So I am not making any comment about it.”
In calls to several radio stations, Nicholls has been discussing her dismissal and her attempts to get severance pay, which Eustace has said she is not entitled to because she was dismissed with cause.
She has portrayed her relationship with her former boss as tumultuous since she was hired in 2001, to her dismissal last year.
Asked why she continued in the position for so long in those circumstances, Nicholls told I-Witness News that she was looking at the larger picture, which she said, was helping the New Democratic Party, which Eustace heads, to get into office.
“From 2001 when I started to 2013, the only thing I got from Mr. Eustace was headache. There was never any appreciation of value,” she told I-Witness News on Sunday.
Nicholls’ statement is in stark contrast to her comments in an interview with I-Witness News soon after her dismissal last March, when she said she will seek “clarity” regarding the reasons for her dismissal.
“… I do not wish to be ungrateful or to create the impression that it was never an enjoyable experience. I will not create that kind of thing. It is just an unfortunate stuff and I will in fact try to have as much clarification done to that situation,” Nicholls told I-Witness News in March 2013.
“It is not that I was shocked. But I was disappointed with the reasons,” she said last year in response to a question about how she felt on learning of her dismissal.
On Sunday, she said that through her comments on radio, she is hoping “to bring clarity in the public; clearing my name, because it is not easy when you’re walking the street and you meet people with deceptive statements, statements which they believe to be true, for which they do not know me and they have no access to the facts.
“So all of this underlining thing that was going on underneath in secret and feeding the public wrong information, now that the public is hearing from me,” Nicholls said, adding that her comments are coming 10 months after she was fired.
Nicholls has said that statements that are being made about her dismissal have had a negative impact on her job prospects.
Asked what impact, if any, she thinks her comments on radio will have on her job prospects, Nicholls told I-Witness News:
“I don’t think it would have any negative impact, because the mere fact that the information was already out there in a negative sense.
“The only how is that things would get better when people have something for which they value clarity,” Nicholls told I-Witness News.
A well-placed source told I-Witness News several weeks ago that the ruling Unity Labour Party has been courting Nicholls to make statements about Eustace that might affect his chances in the next general elections.
Nicholls said this was not the case.
“As you rightly said, the same way in which I find myself in the predicament where I have to go clear my name from malicious and ridiculous statements, exactly what you have heard have been exactly that.
“Nobody in the ULP has ever asked me at all to join the party or even come to something or anything or anything at all that people would do politically. … What you are hearing it is mischief.”
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is political head of the ULP, has said in the past that he has someone at the table of the NDP.
Asked if she was ever that person, Nicholls said: “The Prime Minister has the authority. He can call the name of the person he has at the table of the NDP.
“The Prime Minister never had employed me. The Prime Minister knows nothing about me, so the Prime Minister can’t go and put me and I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me.
“So the prime minister has the right to call the name of the person who he had at the table of the NDP.”
Nicholls said that she never leaked confidential information about the NDP to the Prime Minister, the ULP, or anyone else.
“I never had any confidential information. I never even had Mr. Eustace’s cellphone number,” she told I-Witness News.
In a call on Friday to Star FM, the radio station owned by the ULP, Nicholls noted that Eustace is aspiring to hold one of the highest offices in the land.
“So he cannot function like the man in the shop. He is supposed to have an understanding as to how to deal with people specifically,” she said.
“Yo’ could balance a book and rub out a figure or erase it and put the correct figure, but if you make the wrong policy, a person’s complete life can be destroyed,” she further said.
“Nobody is going to play games with my life. Nobody is going to think that for the interest of political office they are going to play any games with my life.
“Rishatha Nicholls will fight you, win, lose or draw,” she further said, adding that is why when her case was heard by the Department of Labour, she went without a lawyer.
Nicholls, a mother of two school-aged children, said that since her dismissal she has been having problem meeting her financial obligation, but that her creditors have been understanding.
“I want to get outta people way. … give me my money,” she said in reference to her severance pay.