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Ramesh calls for enquiry into award of Govt briefs
Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, is calling for an independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate the “dog-eat-dog fight” in the legal profession. He said the commission should look into the allocation of legal work by the state and all state agencies and the effect it was having on the ethics and independence of the legal profession.
In a statement issued to the media yesterday, Maharaj said the commission should report within 21 days of its appointment. “The time is right to have such a Commission of Enquiry to make recommendations for Government’s conduct in relation to the legal profession and the effect of Government’s interference in the independence of the legal profession,” Maharaj said.
His statement comes in the wake of a war of words between former president of the Law Association Karl Hudson-Phillips and the incumbent president Seenath Jairam over his acceptance and subsequent returning of a legal brief for the Ministry of Finance in the Clico/HCU Commission of Enquiry.
Fyard Hosein and Michael Quamina who were representing the ministry from the start of the enquiry were fired two weeks ago. Maharaj said that matter raised questions about whether the ethics of the profession were being followed and a conflict of interest also arose. He said Jairam’s response in the matter was “a personal attack on Hudson-Phillips.”
Maharaj said at the heart of the open dispute on ethics and conflict of interest was the question of vast sums of money (millions) being spent by the state for legal services. He said “blatant bias was being shown in many cases in who gets briefs. “This is leading to a mad scramble in the legal profession—a dog-eat-dog fight to get legal work from the Government for all sorts of nasty rumours circulating about the retention of some of the lawyers.”
Maharaj said the developments were having “a most damaging effect on the independence of the legal profession from the Government.”
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