Nine lawyers including the present Attorney General (AG) and a sitting judge were yesterday elevated to Senior Counsel (SC) status by President David Granger, 20 years after the last batch, with the former AG claiming bias and a lack of transparency in the appointments.
There are three women among the new SC, the first to be thus elevated in Guyana, making the appointments historic.
A press release from the Ministry of Presidency said that those appointed are learned in the law in Guyana and “on account of their exemplary experience, erudition, excellence and diligence in the practice of the law.”
The nine new Senior Counsel are: Neil Aubrey Boston who was admitted to the Bar in November 1982 and has served with distinction as a trial lawyer for over 34 years; Charles John Ethelwood Fung-A-Fat, admitted to the Bar in August 1983 and served as Parliamentary Counsel and Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel for over 33 years; Justice Alison Roxane McLean George-Wiltshire who having been admitted to the Bar in October 1990, has served as a Senior State Counsel, Assistant Director of Public Prosecution, Deputy Director of Public Prosecution and Director of Public Prosecution; Clifton Mortimer Llewelyn John who was admitted in 1952 first as a solicitor and then as a barrister and has practiced both in the High Court and the Magistrate’s Court; Rafiq Turhan Khan who was admitted to the Bar in November 1984 and has served an advocate, member and Co-Chairman of the Legal Practitioners Committee; Vidyanand Persaud who was called to the Bar in London in July 1976 and admitted to the Bar in Guyana in October 1976 and has served as an arbitrator in disputes and in private practice for 40 years; Rosalie Althea Robertson, admitted to the Bar in November 1983 and served as a Legal Advisor and Corporate Secretary for 33 years and as Registrar of Lands; Justice Claudette Margot Cecile Singh who was called to the Bar in London in 1973 and admitted to the Bar in Guyana in 1976 and served as the Deputy Solicitor General, Puisne Judge and Justice of Appeal and has displayed leadership in spearheading the Modernisation of the Justice Reform Project, and is the Guyana Police Force’s Legal Advisor and AG Basil Williams who was admitted to the Bar in October 1983 and has practised both criminal and civil law for over 33 years.
These appointments take effect from today, the release said while adding that the last SC appointments were made in 1996.
Shortly after the appointments were announced, former AG Anil Nandlall expressed shock and said that some reeked of “political basis and baseless favouritism.”
In a statement to the media, Nandlall said, “I am shocked at the sudden announcement of the appointment of Senior Counsel by the President. These appointments were obviously done in a very opaque fashion.”
He said that persons deserving of such an honour “were spitefully and discriminatorily omitted.”
He mentioned that a sitting judge was appointed. He did not name the judge but he was referring to Justice George who currently presides in the High Court.
This appointment, Nandlall said “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. Kamla Persad-Bissessar was forced to do likewise because when she was appointed Senior Counsel, she was the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.”
He noted that Justice Wendell Kangaloo of Trinidad was a sitting judge when he appointed SC and he refused the appointment.
Another person appointed by Granger, Nandlall said 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?” he questioned. He pointed out the absence of a consultation process before the appointments were made.
“The slide into authoritarianism by this government is moving faster than I anticipated,” he said, offering his congratulations to the “deserving appointees”.