I salute Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, for his legal skills as displayed in the judicial matter of the power of the political executive to appoint ‘silk’ or Senior Counsel.
Nandlall, prevailed in his arguments in a precedent-setting ruling handed down by the High Court judge.
The country and the Diaspora welcome the judgment of the court that the President has the power to appoint silk as indeed all the heads of government did in Guyana going back to the dictator Forbes Burnham and all heads of government in the Anglophone Caribbean and Commonwealth. It settles the issue of who has power to confer silk.
Many lawyers in the Caribbean and the diaspora salute the AG on this judicial victory and on his appointment of the appendage, SC, to his name that is long deserved, during his stint as AG during the Ramotar presidency.
I laud his contributions to jurisprudence. Hardly anyone has contributed more to legal profession since 2012 than Nandlall. An injustice has been corrected with this SC recognition by President Irfaan Ali. I also wish to congratulate Mr. Timothy Jonas and Ms. Jamela Ayesha Ali, no relationship with President Ali.
I have not had the privilege of interacting with the silk appointees. Ms. Ali did not have much presence in the media. Jonas and Nandlall illustrated their legal brilliance and support for democratic principles during the five months ordeal by the APNU-led coalition to rig the election. And a year before that, they also distinguished themselves in court challenging the legitimacy of the Granger administration and appointments made in violation of the Constitution, challenges made all the way to the CCJ that ruled in the challengers’ favor.
Jonas and Nandlall have been indefatigable fighters of democracy, in addition to being outstanding and highly respected members of the bar. They really stood out when democracy was trampled upon. Everyone I conversed with said they deserved SC for their achievements and activism.
The AG argued masterly why the President has the power to appoint silk. He lucidly clarifies the power of appointment of silk for the public and the legal profession. As he noted, it is a tradition going back to some 500 years of history when the monarchy, as head of government, assumed such appointment power that was later invested in the political executive. When the Queen was head of state, the political executive made recommendations and QC was granted. With Guyana becoming a republic, SC has replaced QC. Such authority rests in the head of government throughout the Caribbean. The AG convinced the Judge with his cogent arguments that power to confer silks rests in the executive.
Ms. Jamela Ali needs to be recognized for her integrity and respect for democratic principles. She rejected the SC appointment under President Granger who was a caretaker after December 21, 2018. A caretaker ruler lacks moral and Constitutional authority to issue silk. Out of principle and respect for law, Ms. Ali rejected her appointment.
President Ali must be applauded for magnanimity in restoring the SC to Ms. Ali. For her behaviour alone, she is worthy of the appendage.
The President must also be saluted for placing his instruments of appointment in abeyance from October 30 out of respect for the court’s interpretation of his power to make such appointments. Ali gave deference to the court, not acting arrogantly. He held his hand till the court ruled before handing out the instruments of appointments. This is quite unlike his predecessor who was criticized for taking a collision course with the judicial branch of government. Democracy and rule of law held supreme under Irfaan Ali.
Many lawyers and academics felt Granger contaminated the process in appointing silk; they criticized him for inserting patronage rather than on merit in the process. His appointees caused great disquiet among the bar. Most were not known.
Jonas had challenged the President’s (Granger) power to issue SC. Lawyers felt Jonas should have challenged the process of selecting and some of the appointees rather than the President being invested with such power. Many of those who were granted silk under Granger did not distinguish themselves before the court.
One way of measuring a lawyer’s contribution to jurisprudence is to examine how many cases that lawyer has appeared in leading law reports – Commonwealth Law Report (54 countries) and West Indian Law Report (15 countries).
Only substantive, precedent setting cases and lawyers making the creative arguments are listed in these reports. I did some research from 2015 to now. Nandlall was the leading advocate in WILR. His name was reported 16 times as opposed to zero for Basil Williams. Several others who Granger conferred silk also score zero in the law reports.
Next to Nandlall, Llewellyn John, a member of the bar since 1952, tied with Rajendra Poonai receiving the second highest number of 14 reports. Jonas, at the bar since 1996, was cited in eight reports with Ali, at the bar since 1989 was in nine reports.
From 2015, the reports show that Nandlall has been the youngest lawyer with least years in practice, but the most accomplished in reported cases among lawyers in Guyana, if not the Caribbean. This speaks volumes of his legal skills, putting him head and shoulder above other lawyers even many with longer years of experience.
Nandlall also made significant contributions in Parliament. He presided over several very important pieces of legislation, empowering rights and respect for the Constitution. In addition, as AG between 2012 and May 2015, he revised laws of Guyana, completing the last set of law reports published. He also finished the law revision started by his predecessors, Doodnauth Singh and Charles Ramson – that came to be known as Nandlall’s Edition of the Laws.
The awarding of silk to the three is truly deserving, an acknowledgement of achievement and knowledge of law.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram