Guyana Bar Association elects new Executive, Committee members

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…as Christopher Ram (a former President) lambastes unflattering past year

GBA President Kamal Ramkarran
The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) in electing its new Executive on Wednesday last, voted  Kamal Ramkarran to the top spot as President, while Senior Counsel Robin Stoby and a former president Teni Housty were elected as Vice Presidents respectively.
Vice Presidents Robin Stoby, SC,

Ramkarran will be succeeding Attorney Gem Sanford-Johnson who is currently embroiled in allegations of misappropriating funds.

Vice President Teni Housty

A writ was filed in the High Court, earlier this year, requesting that Sanford-Johnson pay outstanding monies from the sale of a property belonging to Elsa Eileen Harper amounting to $32.5M.

Secretary Pauline Chase
Other elected Executive officer bearers includes Secretary, Pauline Chase, Assistant Secretary Faye Barker and Treasurer, Devindra Kissoon.

Treasurer              Devindra Kissoon

The elections were held at the Victoria Law Courts in Georgetown where the following persons were elected to serve in Executive positions for a period of one year as prescribed by the Rules of the Association.
Elected Committee Members include, Rajendra Poonai, Sanjeev Datadin, Jamela Ali, Mark Waldron, Rexford Jackson and Brenden Glasford.
The elections of the new GBA President and Office bearers comes on the heels of a scathing public missive by former GBA President ( for the 2015 to 2016 yearly term) and outspoken social, political and anti-corruption advocate Christopher Ram.
Ram in his extensive missive observed that the past year has been “a year in which the Bar Association and the wider profession have witnessed oxymoronically, both much happening, and nothing happening.”
Taking a swipe at the GBA for remaining silent on the now infamous High Court case involving the incumbent Attorney General and Justice Franklyn Holder, Ram said “at the top, in a most damaging situation which gripped and then lost the national attention after the proverbial seven days, the judiciary handled in a most clumsy and inept manner a matter that eventually involved the President, the Chancellor (ag.), the entire collective of judges, an individual judge of the High Court, and the Attorney General, the Leader of the Bar.”
Moreover, he posited “yet, the now most senior members of the profession were given national recognition, by way of elevation to the status of Senior Counsel and the country’s top judges accepted high awards conferred by the Executive.”
According to the former GBA President, “ I can recall no period, with one possible exception, in which the judiciary and the profession were portrayed in such unflattering light, bringing the administration of justice the closest to disrepute the country has witnessed.”
He spoke too to the unending exchanges between the incumbent and the former Attorney General, “locked in newspaper battles to prove who is better, more honourable, and more competent, the nobility of the office and the profession being the immediate casualty.”
This he said was occasioned by the fact there was the disdainful silence of the senior members of the legal profession “who in days gone by would have considered themselves keepers of the dignity of the profession…They are no less blameworthy for the mess in which the profession has found itself.”
Ram in his scathing criticisms of the GBA and its members pointed to the legally constructed Legal Practitioners Committee, which has responsibility for overseeing the conduct of the members of the profession.
“Despite the unheralded work of a few members, the Committee has been largely ineffective, hobbled by lack of resources, commitment and courage to deal with the egregious infractions by some members of the profession.”
According to Ram, “very recently I learnt of a matter in which a lawyer committed what amounts to a fraud on the courts, a matter known to his colleagues on the other side in the case but who are reluctant to raise the issue…And the stories of files being ducked in respect of certain lawyers have more than a credible ring about them.”
The Former Bar Association President maintains lawyers are bound by a Code of Conduct under the Legal Practitioners Act “but many it seems pay little attention to its prescriptions, confident that they will get away with whatever.”
He observed too even when lawyers are found “guilty”, the strongest punishment they face is being told to refund the fees or money paid to them by their hapless clients.
“In a civilised environment, such action would require publication…Here in Guyana, there is no more than whisper among lawyers while the offending lawyer is free to continue the offending practice.”
According to the Former GBA President, my recommendation would be for the Legal Practitioners Committee to be headed by a retired judge enabled with capable full-time staff, and for all its findings to be publicized since “the public needs protection from unscrupulous practitioners.”
He surmises that professionals in Guyana, including accountants and doctors, seem to have an allergy to paying taxes but “what makes the legal profession stand out is that the members ply their trade in court buildings provided, maintained and staffed from funds borne by taxpayers.”
Yet, the stories of tax evasion by some lawyers would be comical if the matter did not involve criminal conduct, according to Ram. 

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