President David Granger today announced the appointment of the following persons as Senior Counsel “on account of their exemplary experience, erudition, excellence and diligence in the practice of the law, with effect from January 1, 2017”.
Neil Aubrey Boston, admitted to the Bar in November 1982, for service with distinction as a trial lawyer for over 34 years.
Charles John Ethelwood Fung-A-Fat, admitted to the Bar in August 1983, for service as Parliamentary Counsel and Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel for over 33 years.
Justice Alison Roxane McLean George-Wiltshire, admitted to the Bar in October 1990, for service as a Senior State Counsel, Assistant Director of Public Prosecution, Deputy Director of Public Prosecution and Director of Public Prosecution.
Clifton Mortimer Llewelyn John, admitted in 1952 first as a solicitor and then as a barrister, for his practice in both he High Court and the Magistrate’s Court.
Rafiq Turhan Khan, admitted to the Bar in November 1984, for his service as an advocate, member and Co-Chairman of the Legal Practitioners Committee.
Vidyanand Persaud, called to the Bar in London in July 1976 and admitted to the Bar in Guyana in October 1976, for his service as an arbitrator in disputes and in private practice for 40 years.
Rosalie Althea Robertson, admitted to the Bar in November 1983, for her service as a Legal Advisor and Corporate Secretary for 33 years and as Registrar of Lands.
Justice Claudette Margot Cecile Singh, called to the Bar in London in 1973 and admitted to the Bar in Guyana in 1976, for her service as the Deputy Solicitor General and as a Puisne Judge and a Justice of Appeal and her leadership in spearheading the Modernisation of the Justice Reform Project, and as the Guyana Police Force’s Legal Advisor.
Basil Williams, admitted to the Bar in October 1983, for service in the practice of the law in both criminal and civil law for over 33 years and as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
The last conferral of silk occurred in 1996 when former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran, Richard Fields, former Attorney General Charles Ramson, acting Chief Justice Ian Chang, Moen McDoom and the late Samuel Brotherson were elevated.
In 2014, a process for appointments was initiated but not completed.
In that year, the Office of the Chancellor of the Judiciary invited attorneys-at-law desirous of being elevated to Senior Counsel to apply.
The notice outlined the criteria which were over 15 years of service; expert up-to-date legal knowledge with a record of accurate and relevant application of such knowledge; a record of written and oral advocacy; a reputation for appropriate deportment, decorum and interpersonal relationships with professional colleagues befitting that of a member of the inner Bar; and a reputation for honesty and integrity particularly with respect to professional dealings with the court, with clients and all other parties.
It is unclear what process was used for this year’s selections.
The initiation of the 2014 process was seen as intended to pave the way for the elevation of then Attorney General Anil Nandlall. He had been the first person to hold the office of AG without being a senior counsel. Around this period, Nandlall became embroiled in a raging controversy over a call he had made to a Kaieteur News reporter. No appointments of senior counsel were made and Nandlall is not on today’s list.
As in the case of Nandlall, the present AG, Williams was not a Senior Counsel prior to today’s announcement.
Conferral of silk has always attracted some measure of controversy and while there will be questions about some of those on this list, even more questions will likely arise about those who are not on the list considering the interval since the last appointments.
The recognition of three women will be seen as a significant and positive development.
Nandlall this afternoon issued the following statement on the appointments on his Facebook page:
“I am shocked at the sudden announcement of the appointment of Senior Counsel by the President. I congratulate the deserving appointees. These appointments were obviously done in a very opaque fashion. Some of the appointments reek of political bias and baseless favouritism. Persons deserving were spitefully and discriminatorily omitted.
“A sitting Judge was appointed. This runs contrary to every canon of practice and precedent which dictate that Senior Counsel must be practicing lawyers, for this reason the Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, Ivor Archie, was forced to relinquish his appointment as Senior Counsel because he was a Judge and not a practicing lawyer when he was appointed. Kamala Persaud Bissessar was forced to do likewise because when she was appointed Senior Counsel, she was the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Another person appointed has never done a case of substance at the Bar.
“The omissions are equally glaring. On what basis was the current DPP, Shalimar Hack, omitted? As irregular as I believe it is for a Judge to be appointed, on what basis was one Judge appointed and the other Judges not, especially the Chancellor and Chief Justice?
“What consultations if any were done?
“The slide into authoritarianism by this government is moving faster than I anticipated.”