President cites ‘dereliction of duty’ for absence of such appointments
Nine long-serving legal practitioners were today presented with their commissions of appointment and named Senior Counsel by President David Granger at a ceremony at State House.
This is the first time in over 20 years that Senior Counsel have been appointed and the Head of State, David Granger called an absence of such appointments a ‘dereliction of duty’.
Among those officially appointed today were two of the first three women to to ever be elevated thus; Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire and Rosalie Robertson. Justice Claudette Singh will be presented with hers at a later date as she is currently overseas.
Attorney General, Basil Williams, Neil Aubrey Boston, Charles Fung-A-Fat, Clifton Llewelyn John, Rafiq Khan and Vidyanand Persaud are the other legal practitioners to receive the honour.
Granger explained that the appointment of Senior Counsel, which was last done in 1996, “constitutes an important institution of the State and is also an important part of his personal obligation as President of Guyana to ensure that deserving citizens are given their due.”
Since the list of appointees was announced on December 31, 2016, there have been some criticisms as a sitting judge was named.
Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, who was one such critic, had said in a statement that a “sitting Judge was appointed. This runs contrary to every canon of practice and precedent which dictates that Senior Counsel must be practicing lawyers, for this reason the Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, Ivor Archie, was forced to relinquish his appointment as Senior Counsel because he was a Judge and not a practicing lawyer when he was appointed. Kamala Persaud Bissessar was forced to do likewise because when she was appointed Senior Counsel, she was the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.”
However, the Head of State noted that the 20 year absence of appointments means that a generation of qualified legal practitioners have missed out on receiving this honour.
“For the first time in 20 years, I have appointed three women and I couldn’t find any reason why women weren’t appointed before and as far as sitting judges are concerned as in the case of Justice Roxane George, she served for several years in the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] and were this a normal jurisdiction, during those years, she would have had the [Senior Counsel appointment] long ago. It is a travesty that for 50 years, we couldn’t find a woman attorney to grant the Senior Counsel to and she is fully qualified,” the President explained.
Apart from Judges being appointed Nandlall had critiqued the methodology used in determining the persons chosen as Senior Counsel.
“On what basis was the current DPP, Shalimar Hack, omitted? As irregular as I believe it is for a Judge to be appointed, on what basis was one Judge appointed and the other Judges not, especially the Chancellor and Chief Justice? What consultations if any were done?” Nandlall had questioned.