PM defends silk process, slams detractors

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks to party members and supporters at a PNM sports and family day at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on Sunday. – Venessa Mohammed

The Prime Minister has defended his two cabinet ministers and a member of parliament against criticisms after they were awarded the title of senior counsel on June 17.

Receiving the “silk,” as it is referred to, were Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young, Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi and Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland.

Since the ceremony, criticisms have come from politicians and even stakeholders within the legal profession, as they called for the process of selecting lawyers for the award to be amended.

The Law Association of TT, the Criminal Bar Association, the Assembly for Southern Lawyers, and Patriotic Front leader Mickela Panday have all said the process should be changed to remove the appearance of bias in the selection of new senior counsel.

Speaking at a PNM sports and family day at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on Sunday, Dr Rowley dismissed the criticisms, saying those who received silk were qualified individuals.

“You can’t take them (detractors) seriously.

“Last year, members of the legal profession got silk. Some of them were known UNC activists. One of them actually ran for the post of deputy chairman of the UNC last weekend.

“When they got silk, I didn’t hear anybody accusing me of political bias. But when qualified PNM members of the profession – one who served as attorney general for five years, had more law advanced to the Parliament than virtually any other attorney general, the other one who fought on his legs to bring back millions of dollars to this country – when they were made senior counsel I see…(claims of) political bias on behalf of the PNM.

“I am proud that people of that quality found their way into the PNM (and) demonstrated their worth on behalf of the people of TT.”

Rowley’s comments came as he condemned naysayers who he said would oppose anything the Government did. Also conferred the title of senior counsel last Monday were Regan Asgarali, Simon de la Bastide, Gregory Delzin, Elaine Green, Lee Merry, Mark Morgan, Ravindra Nanga, Justin Phelps, Winston Seenath, Hasine Shaikh, Anthony Smart, Annabelle Sooklal and Prakash Deonarine.