Dec. 17 set for ruling on President’s power to confer silk

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High Court Judge, Nareshwar Harnanan will on Thursday, December 17, 2020 rule in the case brought before him by attorney-at-law, Timothy Jonas, challenging four Senior Counsel (SC) appointments that were made by former President, David Granger last year.

Justice Harnanan will have to rule on whether Guyana’s President is vested with any executive or other powers to confer legal practitioners with silk – Senior Counsel (SC) status.

Following brief oral submissions during a virtual hearing on Monday, Justice Harnanan said he will deliver the oral ruling on Thursday at 15:00h.

President Irfaan Ali [Office of the President photo/December 03, 2020]
Jonas, who was appointed Senior Counsel status by President Ali on October 30, 2020, is asking the court to grant an Order of Certiorari to quash the SC appointments of attorneys-at-law Jamila Ali, Roysdale Forde, Mursalene Bacchus and Stanley Moore.

The application to the High Court by Jonas, who some said was overlooked for Senior Counsel, was made back in August 2020.

Jonas, through his attorney, Teni Housty, argued that the power to appoint senior counsel to attorneys, who have practised with distinction, must rest with the Full Bench of the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature.

Housty, during oral submissions on Monday, briefly contended that if the presidential power is permitted to stand, it could have a debilitating effect on the administration of justice.

But Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, who has been named as a respondent in the case, maintained that the President, as Guyana’s supreme executive authority, is vested with the exclusive prerogative to confer legal practitioners with silk.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall

He said that the President’s prerogative to confer silk does not infringe on judicial independence, nor is it unconstitutional in any other way.

In brief oral submissions on Monday, Nandlall said that the case lacks merit and should have never been filed. The Attorney General said the powers to confer silk was a power that was vested in the queen before Guyana gained independence.

That power, he argued, was transferred to the President, where it remains and was never vested in the judiciary. Nandlall said perhaps the argument should be about regulating it now, but noted that no case can be made out against the clear authority of the President.

Nandlall contended that while he sees a case to be made out for regulation, this case against the President’s powers should be dismissed and an appropriate order for costs be made.

When contacted for a comment on the conferral of silk on him by President Ali, Jonas said the judiciary has approved status of senior counsel on him. “So, in my opinion, all is well.”

With regards to accepting the appointment, Jonas said with this ruling still outstanding, he will decide what to do after the court decides on who has the power.

Jonas said too that he believes the case is important because there must be transparency in all things including conferring Honours.

“We all have to fight to preserve transparency and prevent corrupt preference based on political affiliation. That applies in State Corporations where people are fired as well as in the Court with lawyers. People tend to forget that is the purpose of the court. To tell us what the law is and what we should do. So, let us await the court ruling,” the attorney told the News Room.

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