Criminal Bar Assoc: Young deserving, but process to award silk must be reviewed

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Stuart Young, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries. – File photo

A PROMINENT Senior Counsel believes there is urgent need to revisit the process by which silk is awarded.

Israel Khan said on June 15, “The Prime Minister, the executive parts of government, should not be recommending silk to the President.”

“That is supposed to be the Chief Justice and members of the Law Association of TT. They should form a committee and do something,” he told Newsday.

“But you see we are going back to 400 years when it was the queen’s prerogative to grant all rights to her citizens.”

Khan was reacting to the news that Minister of Energy and Energy Industries and Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Stuart Young – is among the list of attorneys to be conferred silk during a function at President’s House, St Ann’s, on June 17.

Dr Rowley made the disclosure in the House of Representatives on June 14 while chastising the Opposition for its refusal to support whistleblower protection during debate on the Whistleblower Bill 2022.

There is speculation that Minister of Rural Development and Local Government and San Fernando West MP Faris Al-Rawi is also among those to be awarded silk.

Other names said to be on the list are former justice minister Christlyn Moore, senior attorney Prakash Deonarine and Chief Public Defender Hasine Shaikh.

Shaikh, who is in her 30s, is among the youngest lawyers ever to be awarded silk. She was hired on March 2, 2020, as the first chief public defender in the Public Defender’s Office.

Martin Daly was awarded silk at 35.

Khan, who is the head of the Criminal Bar Association, said he has not seen the official list but believes Young is a good choice.

“Young deserves silk because of his work in the construction industry, when they had the Uff Commission. He appeared there and quietly he has been doing work.”

The Uff Commission of Enquiry, which was held more than a decade ago, probed corruption and practices in the public construction sector and at Udecott.

Realistically, though, Khan said he could not vouch for civil attorneys, only criminal lawyers.

“I think based on his merit, ability and integrity, he (Young) deserves it.”

But he predicted there might be some objection to Young’s appointment.

“Unfortunately, he is in the political gayelle. But I think he will get silk.”

Khan said he heard about a few names on the list.

“We are only hearing but nobody has seen the list. We have to get it from the gazette and nothing on the gazette yet. They might publish the gazette on Monday morning.”

Asked if he feels there will be some backlash to two sitting Cabinet members being conferred silk, Khan said the Opposition may have its concerns.

“But the electorate is more concerned with safety and security. People are concerned about crime now, more than even bread-and-butter issues.”

Last year, Rowley was forced to defend the government’s decision to award silk to President Christine Kangaloo’s husband Kerwyn Garcia and her brother, Colin Kangaloo, saying their appointments had nothing to do with their familial relationship with the Head of State. They were among 17 attorneys who received silk on that occasion.

He said, then, that the criteria for selection included professional eminence, sound intellectual ability, thorough up-to-date knowledge of their field and outstanding ability as an advocate in the higher courts.

“When I go to hold consultations on this matter it is in that context where I would want to know where the individual stands in their profession. Not who their family is, not who they are married to. Not who is their uncle, cousin, brother,” Rowley had told reporters.

But political analyst Dr Indira Rampersad told Newsday at the time that the award of silk to the President’s husband and brother reflected badly on her as head of state.

She also said that Cabinet should not be involved in recommending lawyers for silk.

Rampersad recalled the Cabinet of the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration had similarly recommended silk for herself and then attorney general Anand Ramlogan.

However, in the case of Garcia and Kangaloo, Rampersad said their appointments reflected badly on the President because they were her relatives.

“There seems to be a conflict of interest here,” she had said.

In a notice gazetted on May 13, 2024, Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, urged attorneys who wished to be considered for appointment as senior counsel to submit applications to his office by midnight on May 20.

He advised the appointment would be according to the 1964 legal notice, which sets out the procedure for appointing senior counsel, or silk.

The notice says applicants must have professional eminence and distinction, which establishes them as leaders of the profession; sound intellectual ability; thorough, comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge of law and practice in the fields in which they practise; and outstanding ability as an advocate in the higher courts.

Applicants were also required to have the highest professional standing, having gained the respect of the bench and profession in observing the advocate’s duty to the court and the administration of justice while presenting their clients’ case and being formidable, fair and honourable as an opponent.

The notice also said applicants must have total professional integrity, maturity of judgment and balance and a high-quality practice with at least ten years of experience based on demanding cases, “which allow the full measure of the preceding qualities to be demonstrated.”