I read with keen interest the statement made by the Chancellor of the Judiciary (acting) Carl Singh in yesterday’s Stabroek News when he said that the appointment of Senior Counsel will be done in a transparent, fair and justifiable manner based on recommendations made. The learned Head of Judiciary did not however go into the methodology for selection and who will participate in it.
I suppose the Chancellor was speaking of future appointments. I wonder if the same method was used when the last six lawyers were elevated. Some lawyers in Guyana feel that two did not merit elevation and dubbed to be PPP supporters.
However, I must point out that Forbes Burnham who was a Queen’s Counsel was not keen in elevating lawyers to the inner bar. Outstanding lawyers like Doodnauth Singh, Clarence Hughes, George Jackman and Julian Nurse were appointed when Desmond Hoyte, also a Senior Counsel, took over as Head of Government. Two former Solicitors Eric Clarke and Sase Narain were also admitted to the Inner Bar. The two solicitors were eligible after the profession was fused in 1979. Incidentally all but Sase Narain have since passed.
It was said at that time that Burnham did not want to elevate Doodnauth Singh and Hughes was not one of his favourites. Doodnauth Singh said that he was humiliated when he prosecuted in the Maurice Bishop murder case as an ordinary lawyer and not a “silk” when lawyers from other jurisdictions who were not as competent as he was, were recognized as members of the inner bar.
Guyana has not only discarded the wig, but also got rid of the bib (two strips of linen about 5 inches in length by 1 1/2 inches) instead of a necktie. This is still being worn in all the other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states and maybe throughout the Commonwealth. Guyana set the lead in this regard and was the first country in the region to abolish appeals to the Privy Council when it became a republic in 1970. In fact it was the only country in the Commonwealth to only have one appellate court… the Guyana Court of Appeal. This lasted for more than 34 years until the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice.
The Co-operative Republic is also the only Court where suits were not required to be worn by male attorneys- shirt-jac was acceptable. I am making these points to suggest maybe Guyana can get rid of the appointment of Senior Counsel like the United States —where all lawyers are equal- no inner bar or silk. You are retained by performance.