President: Silk is a professional honour

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

NEW SILK: President Christine Kangaloo (centre) with 13 attorneys who were appointed to the rank of Senior Counsel at President’s House, Port of Spain, on June 17.
Front row from left: Annabelle Sooklal, Anthony Smart, Hasine Shaikh, Winston Seenath, Keith Scotland, Ravindra Nanga.
Back row from left: Mark Morgan, Lee Mary, Eliane Green, Gregory Delzin, Simon De La Bastide, Regan Asgarali, and Faris Al Rawi. – ROGER JACOB

President Christine Kangaloo said the title of senior counsel (SC) carried with it tremendous responsibility. She called on the 13 attorneys conferred with the title on Monday to be leaders and mentors in the profession.

Speaking at President’s House, St Ann’s, she said the award of silk was a professional honour.

“The conferral of this honour is the means by which there is created within the legal profession, from time to time, new bodies of women and men who, by virtue of their honorific title, are formally inducted into the ranks of leadership in the profession.

“Like so many other professions, the sustainability and the advancement of the legal profession depend on the leadership, mentorship and apprenticeship that are offered and provided by those, whose induction into the ranks of leadership, we have witnessed today.

She called on all silk recipients to continue to provide guidance and assistance to all young practitioners and those who have chosen to study the law.

“This is your solemn duty as leaders. I have no doubt that you understand the enormity of it and that you are all up to the responsibility.”

Former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi said it was a humbling day to receive silk. He said he was glad to be a part of the gathering on Monday.

“I’m pleased I didn’t have to offer myself silk. It was a pleasure to be able to draft law, manage law, put it together. I could go and on about the joy it has been.”

TT Intellectual Property Office controller Regan Asgar-Ali said his appointment meant some of the areas formerly seen as boutique areas were now becoming mainstream in practice.

“I’ve been 20 years in practice. The IP office must be reformed, take it further into innovation. Right now, we’re looking at artificial intelligence very carefully.”

High Court and human rights advocate Gregory Delzin said he felt a sense of pride and duty at being awarded silk.

“It’s made me realise the kind of duty I have in the profession and to the constitution. Lawyers are one of the pivotal aspects of our democracy. Being conferred silk means part of my duty is to promote lawyers and the law, to allow lawyers to practice at a certain standard.”

Delzin is the former chairman of the now defunct sentencing commission. He said he would love for it to be restarted, as it should be advising Parliament on some of the laws being passed. He said part of the mandate of the commission was to go into communities and deal with aspects of the law that would affect them. WASA chairman Ravindra Nanga said he was very humbled to receive the title. He said he had not expected the honour and would take the President’s words to heart.

“As a tutor at the Hugh Wooding Law School, I am mentoring my students and giving them guidance on what to expect when they come out here. They’re doing service right now so I’ll give them some pointers on how they should conduct themselves during this period where people are observing them.”

Chief public defender Hasine Shaikh said she was deeply humbled and felt very privileged to be awarded silk.

“I’ve been in the field for 15 years. In the current role I have we’ve worked very hard and I think it’s a testament to the work we’ve done and the ability we’ve had to change the criminal justice landscape, I think this is a testament to that.”

She said being the first chief public defender and starting the department was daunting.

“Four years in, we’ve completed 311 matters, we currently have 2,000 active matters, we’re currently responsible for all the matters which are legally aided so we have no shortage of work. Ultimately, I think we’ve changed the culture of what was perceived in terms of representation for legally-aided people. Because you’re poor doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to efficient and quality representation and generally I believe that is what the public defenders department provides.”

She said she would like to see more of the ability to present quality service, as well as more resources, as she had 30 attorneys with a maximum capacity for 38. Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland said he felt almost numb with surprise.

“I feel like the hard work paid off. I have no words to describe what this means to me in the profession. I always wanted to be a lawyer, because I love to talk, sometimes too much.”

He said he would like to find eight more hours in the day to mentor more young people.

“The world has changed the way we learn and the legal profession. Before, you could sit down in a chamber court and see other lawyers, now you’re online and you’re not getting that.

“Mentoring, saying what is right and what is wrong, is important, because you learn by experience, and when the young people see the experience, they will know what to do and what not to do.”

Commercial and personal injury litigation lawyer Michael Simon de la Bastide; private and prosecutorial attorney Elaine Veronica Greene; criminal law, civil litigation and constitutional claims lawyer Lee Merry; commercial litigator Mark James Morgan; advocate attorney Winston Seenath; former AG Anthony Isidore Smart; and family law advocate Annabelle Ramona Sooklal were also awarded silk at the ceremony.

Three additional awards will be made at a later date to Energy Minister Stuart Young, Justin Phelps and Justin Deonarine, who were not in the country at the time of the ceremony.