In a letter which appeared in SN on Feb. 19, Sir Shridath Ramphal, a former Attorney-General (AG)/Solicitor-General (SG) to the late Prime Minister Burnham of Guyana eulogized the late Dr Shahabuddeen, also a former AG/SG of Guyana who died in Canada on Feb 17.
He elucidated Dr Shahabuddeen’s impressive academic legal achievements and described him as a son of Guyana with unmatched legal brilliance. What was missing however from Mr Ramphal’s praises was what Dr Shahabuddeen and himself had done as the peoples’ attorneys in Guyana to prevent the excesses of the Burham administration such as the rigging of elections and other human rights abuses, and what Dr Shahabuddeen had done in relation to changes to the Constitution which gave the Prime Minister of the Republic dictatorial powers in some critical areas of governance. After all, they were the peoples’ lawyers and their clients’ interests were paramount, but it didn’t seem so.
Mr Ramphal and to a lesser extent Dr Shahabuddeen did not use their legal positions during their tenure with the Burnham government to clean up many of the injustices which were incorporated in the original Constitution or introduce laws to improve the lives of Guyanese. Instead, they sought avenues to advance their own agendas and careers as Mr Ramphal got Prime Minister Burnham to recommend (also canvass for him) for the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and a knighthood from the Queen, while Dr Shahabuddeen got the PNC government to nominate him as a judge to the International Court of Justice at the Hague, which he got.
There were many other goodies they received concomitant with their spheres of influence. In hindsight, Guyanese would like to be apprised by Mr Ramphal as to the contributions (apart from the Venezuela issue which is still pending) which Dr Shahabuddeen and himself as two eminent jurists have done worthy of emulation to have curbed the excesses of the government they served as well as to have improved the fate of Guyanese through their legal efforts who were suffering from a dictatorial administration under Prime Minister Burnham.