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Karl showed crass behaviour says Jairam
Lies, lies and blatant lies. This is the accusation flung at Queen’s Counsel Karl Hudson-Phillips, as Law Association president Seenath Jairam, SC, broke the silence he had originally observed since Hudson-Phillips addressed a stinging letter to him on Thursday afternoon.
In his letter, Hudson-Phillips accused Jairam of seeking his personal interest in obtaining briefs (legal work), and neglecting the body of attorneys which he is tasked with protecting. For accepting a legal brief from the Ministry of Finance, Hudson-Phillips likened Jairam to scab labour and told Jairam his action had caused irreparable harm to the Law Association.
The two men continued their highly public spat yesterday. In an eight-page letter written to Hudson-Phillips and copied to the media yesterday, Jairam accused his senior of being untruthful and trying to regain his glory years by resorting to ridicule and unethical conduct in an attempt to belittle him.
In some instances Jairam used the words contained in Hudson-Phillips letter to insult the former Attorney General, even insinuating that as Hudson-Phillips grew older, he was not becoming wiser. “While you sought to berate, denigrate and belittle me by your letter, you demonstrated crass behaviour, not class, which is most unfortunate. As we get older, we should become gentler and wiser, those are the hallmarks of a gentleman and a statesman.”
A wounded-sounding Jairam said he and the QC had a strong friendship over the years, and had considered each other as family. The Law Association head even accused his predecessor of not speaking the truth about the circumstances surrounding Jairam’s candidacy for the association’s election.
In an almost immediate response, Hudson-Phillips, a former International Criminal Court judge, replied, “I cannot sympathise with you on this occasion. We both have daughters who are members of the legal profession. I would have acted no differently if my 'baitee' (daughter) had done what you did.”
The senior lawyer said Jairam had missed the concerns raised in his letter, which addressed ethics, responsibility and standards, with regard to Jairam accepting a brief to appear for the Ministry of Finance in the Clico/HCU enquiry. The question of conflict of interest was a focal point.
Hudson-Phillips said despite the friendship he and Jairam shared, standing on morals and principles ought to outweigh material aspects in life. "As professional men, particularly members of the legal profession, we must realise that we owe a higher duty to the principles and tenets of our profession," he admonished. "This duty sometimes transcends friendships and personalities."
He then reminded Jairam that the post of association president should be independent and held in the highest regard and “where action occurs which seriously breaches the code of conduct which members of the legal profession owe to each other and the public, it is not a personal or private matter.”
War of words genesis
The war of words between the two senior attorneys erupted on Thursday, when both Jairam and Congress of the People chairman Joseph Toney told the Ministry of Finance they were no longer interested in representing the ministry at the commission of enquiry into the failure of collapsed insurance giant Clico and the Hindu Credit Union (HCU).
Initially, the services of Fyard Hosein, SC, and attorney Michael Quamina were retained when the enquiry began last year. However, both were fired by e-mail last week, with the ministry announcing that Jairam, Toney and Jagdeo Singh had been retained as replacements.
Jairam and Toney, in separate press releases, said owing to public perception they were returning the briefs. Jairam had been accused of a conflict of interest, since he represented a group of Clico policyholders led by Percy Farrell. The group had sued the office of the Attorney General.
But Jairam, in an interview during the week with the T&T Guardian, had at first defended his acceptance of the brief, saying no conflict had arisen, since the matter he had argued for the policyholders was on a constitutional point. In his letter yesterday, Jairam counter-attacked, saying Hudson-Phillips’ own actions were intrusive and unethical.
Hudson-Phillips had said Jairam had attended a conference with his former clients the Clico policyholders. Jairam accused Hudson-Phillips of telephoning Farrell and questioning him about the conference. “That was highly unprofessional and unethical,” Jairam charged.
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