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Khan: Don’t blame AG, it was done before
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan cannot really be faulted in awarding silk to two sitting judges because there was precedence in the matter. That view on the controversial matter was given by Israel Khan SC yesterday. “When it was first announced I didn’t give it much serious thought because there was precedence for a chief justice to take silk,” he said. Khan recalled that former chief justice Clinton Bernard was awarded silk in 1988 by the attorney general of then National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government.
So too, as a matter of fact, was former NAR prime minister Arthur NR Robinson, he noted. Khan also pointed out that a very senior silk, Karl Hudson-Phillips QC, was awarded silk while he was attorney general during the PNM administration in 1971. Hudson-Phillip has called on Archie and Kangaloo to forthwith return their instruments, bestowing the title senior counsel. He said the independence of the Judiciary was totally incompatible with holding a title which required service to the Crown/State/Government.
When Robinson and Bernard, not engaged in active practice at the Bar, were awarded silk in 1988, there also was public objection. Robinson, in a letter to the editor in September 1993, defending his acceptance of silk, said he made an application for silk as far back as 1981. He said he personallly delivered the application to the attorney general in the PNM administration at the time. Then attorney general Russell Martineau said he could see no objection, Robinson said.
He said years passed and he received no further official response and about 18 months after assuming the office of prime minister in the NAR Government then attorney general, Selwyn Richardson, presented him with an instrument appointing him to senior counsel. “Mr Richardson informed me that my application of 1981 was still lodged in the Red House with the comment ‘no objection’ on my letter,” Robinson said. Khan, commenting on the awarding of silk to Archie and Kangaloo said: “You really can’t fault the AG. He met precedent.”
Khan noted that he, too, was of the view that awarding silk to sitting judges ran against the separation of powers. “They are judges and are not representing people at the Bar. Silk is really for advocates.” Khan said there should be two categories in the awarding of silk. Heads of government departments should be awarded with honorary silk. Only advocates should be given real silk. He added: “It is with the greatest reluctance I say that the Chief Justice and Justice Kangaloo should consider whether they made a mistake in accepting silk.”
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