I read with great interest a letter written by my old New Amsterdam friend, Morty Codett which appeared in Wednesday’s issue of the Stabroek News (April 9) under the caption ‘Why no women Senior Counsel?’ I must congratulate my friend for the excellent letter, but I wish to clarify a couple of points.
He stated that the Solicitor General and the Director of Public Prosecutions are normally elevated to Senior Counsel, but I think that it was that the persons who held the office were given silk and not necessarily the office. I refer to Joaquin Gonsalves-Sabola as Solicitor General who should have been elevated to a Court of Appeal Judge, but was asked to stay on, which he did until he went to the Bahamas as a judge and was later elevated to Chief Justice before he retired, and later passed, as well as Julian Nurse who succeeded him. They were outstanding attorneys. Likewise the DPP Mannie Ramao and later George Jackman and Ian Chang.
I had written a piece some time ago stating that women are taking over the judiciary in the Caribbean. I also know that Guyana is flooded with female lawyers, but I do not know if some of them merit being elevated and my good friend did not state in his letter who were the deserving cases. I do not know because I live outside of Guyana. He mentioned that no lawyer has been elevated for the past five years. This is not unusual, but what bothers me is that there should be no political appointees as was done in a couple of cases in the past, and given a comment made by former President Bharrat Jagdeo that Nigel Hughes would never be considered for Senior Counsel. This gives the impression that ‘silk’ is given by politicians.
This seems to be the case in Trinidad and Tobago where Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, DPP Roger Gusford and to crown it all the sitting Chief Justice Ivor Archie were elevated to Senior Counsel on December 31, 2011. The elevation brought comments from President George Maxwell who said that the elevation process was not strictly followed; and in Belize politicians had a say up to two years ago. Belize has the more Senior Counsel than any other jurisdiction in the Caribbean Community. There might be a change now that no-nonsense Guyanese Kenneth Benjamin is the Chief Justice of that Central American country.
It is not easy to be elevated to silk in Barbados, Jamaica, and the Eastern Caribbean states.