President Christine Kangaloo’s husband Kerwyn Garcia, SC, speaks with his brother-in-law Colin Kangaloo, SC, (right), while Garcia’s father and former education minister and PNM MP Anthony Garcia listens during the award of silk ceremony on Monday at President’s House, St Ann’s. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE –
THE Prime Minister on Tuesday defended the Government’s decision to award silk (senior counsel status) to the husband and brother of the President, saying their ascension had nothing to do with their familial relationship to the Head of State.
On Monday, the Opposition raised concerns about President Christine Kangaloo’s husband Kerwyn Garcia and her brother Colin Kangaloo being among the 17 attorneys receiving letters of appointment for silk. At a media conference on Tuesday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Dr Rowley said the 18 attorneys (one will get her appointment at a later date) were selected from a list of 57 lawyers and none were selected because of familial relations.
Rowley said the criteria for selection included professional eminence, sound intellectual ability, thorough up-to-date knowledge of their field, 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 said.
He said if anyone criticises the integrity of the attorneys then their argument could hold water, but with only the appearance of nepotism, it was not enough for him to reconsider their promotions.
“How does one get considered? It is like picking the West Indies team. Most people who could hold a bat and make more than a duck, feel they should be on the team.”
Rowley said the process for awarding silk is as old as the country and he did not change or break any rules and those who say the President should not have awarded the titles to her husband and brother are in fact inviting her to break the law. He chastised Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who in 2011 was one of 16 attorneys who received silk. Rowley said it was a case of himself advising himself to award himself and if there was nothing wrong with that, then the President adhering to the law and appointing, on the advice of the Prime Minister, her husband and brother, must be above board. Questioned about the optics of the award Rowley reiterated, “Familial connections played no part and the President had no say in not carrying out directions of the Cabinet.”
Asked about changing the process to allow for non-politicians to be part of the process, Rowley said until the law changes, he must do what must be done. He raised the appointment of top legal officers in other countries, highlighting the law lords in the UK and attorney general in the US, both appointed by politicians.
Asked why he did not accept the Law Association’s offer to meet to discuss a new system to select silk, Rowley said he declined because he did not find such a meeting necessary.
He reiterated that he made his decisions based on consultations with the Attorney General who himself had consulted with the Chief Justice.