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President: Silk comes with ability, good work
When it comes to high office holders, President George Maxwell Richards says the application for Senior Counsel (SC) status is not strictly followed. The President was speaking at the appointment ceremony of 16 attorneys-at-law to Senior Counsel—among them Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard—which took place at Knowsley yesterday. The President said in many instances, the individuals had “made significant contribution” and “a body of sufficient work preceding their appointment to public office.” But he contends that a significant number of appointments is required to preserve the balance in the profession and there is an established procedure for appointing silk status.
“Appointments are made by the President on the advice of the Honourable Prime Minister,” Richards said. “The procedure which has been established is that members of the bar who wish to be appointed submit their application the Attorney General, who then consults with the Chief Justice and such other party and bodies such as the Law Association as he considers necessary. “After such consultation the Attorney General will submit those recommendations to the Prime Minister who then advises the President.” But Chief Justice Ivor Archie says “it’s as much a mystery to you as to me as to how my name was put forward” when asked how his name made the list. He said he had made no application for Senior Counsel rank even though he discussed with the AG, the names of those who should be given silk rank.
And while surprised over the silk status, Archie said it was good to know that the body of work he contributed had been recognised. He extended congratulations to all the other 15 attorneys who were given silk yesterday. Archie was one of two judges to be given silk yesterday—the other being Justice Wendell Kangaloo. Former chief justice Clinton Bernard was the first judge to be given silk. For his part, Kangaloo said it was the first time a non-sitting judge had been given silk and hoped it marked the beginning of a trend. “Judges are the unsung heroes of the profession...They are expected to live a secluded lifestyle yet supposed to have a pulse on society and the two are incompatible,” he said in an interview. “Being recognised for hard work is refreshing.”
Meanwhile, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard says he was “humbled’ by the appointment. “I was very much surprised...It’s a high accolade, and it’s not something which I’d have contemplated,” said the soft-spoken DPP. Achieving silk, he said, was a testament to the hard work of his parents and grandparents but it also shows “that I can do the right thing at any cost.” Ramlogan pointed out that long before Persad-Bissessar became Prime Minister, she enjoyed a “distinguished legal career” and it was a proud moment for the profession to have the Prime Minister given silk. He said there was precedence, as ANR Robinson was also given silk while in office. For his part, Ramlogan said “it was an honour” to be a member of the Inner Bar at such a young age, having worked very hard for the past 15 years at a profession which he loved.
Silk, said Richards, had not been granted since January 2006, whilst several members of the Inner Bar had ceased practising as advocates or had retired. “I should also indicate certain criteria have been established so that before any appointment can be made there must be evidence of professional eminence and distinction which establishes the individual as a leader in the profession,” he said. “Sound intellectual ability and a sound understanding and knowledge of law and practice in the field which he or she practises. “Outstanding ability as an advocate in the higher courts, professional integrity, maturity of judgment and balance...and this is not an exhaustive list.” Given the diversity of attorneys given silk, attorney Denis Gurley said it was a good development in managing the criteria of who should be recognised. He observed that large bands of the profession have been previously excluded.
Former House Speaker Barry Sinanan, who’s been in practice for the last 37 years, said he’s very proud. His speciality, he said, was not one in the limelight—he practises property law. “I am glad the Government has recognised the work that conveyancers have contributed to the law,” he said. Other attorneys given silk were Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell, chairman of the Law Reform Commission and chairman of the Law Reform Commission Samraj Harripaul, Chief Parliamentary Counsel Ian MacIntyre, Stephanie Daly, Christo Gift, Surrendranath Capildeo, Sophia Chote and Norma Maynard-Marshall. Attorney and founding member of the Congress of the People (COP) Vernon de Lima was absent from yesterday’s ceremony.
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