President’s husband on silk appointment: I WAS GOVERNMENT’S CHOICE

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PROUD OF YOU BRO: President Christine Kangaloo presents the appointment of the status of Senior Counsel to her brother Colin Kangaloo on Monday at President’s House in St Ann’s. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE –

ATTORNEY Kerwyn Garcia said it was the Government – not his wife President Christine Kangaloo – that supported his application to become a senior counsel (SC), under a process whose final approval is set out in the Constitution.

He was speaking to reporters minutes after Kangaloo presented instruments conferring SC status (also commonly known as silk) to 17 attorneys including Garcia and her brother Colin Kangaloo.

Law Association (LATT) head Lynette Seebaran-Suite, who would have been the 18th attorney to get silk, was absent at the ceremony held at President’s House in St Ann’s on Monday afternoon, due to a death in her family. She will receive her instruments at another date.

Addressing guests after presenting the instruments, Kangaloo outlined the process whereby the Attorney General invited suitable attorneys to apply, then consulted with the Chief Justice on these applicants and then made recommendations to the Prime Minister who in turn advised her as President to make the appointment.

She said the President, “whoever he or she may be,” acts under the Constitution to award silk in line with what he/she has been advised to do.

Garcia later told reporters the process was guided by AG Reginald Armour, with a final selection by Dr Rowley which was then sent to the President who is mandated to approve it.

Asked how it felt to be presented the instrument by his wife, although not be appointed per se by her, Garcia replied, “I’m very glad you draw that distinction, because there’s always public discourse in TT – which is always to be encouraged – but I think it is important one uses the surgeon’s scalpel rather than the butcher’s axe when it comes to public discourse. It is important that one tries to generate more light than heat.

“So the distinction between the end of the process which is today and the executing of the process which began with the AG inviting applications, is an important distinction to be drawn.

“Do I feel it is a happy turn of events, that it happens to be Her Excellency Christine Kangaloo, who is occupying the Office of President at this time? That is a happy accident of history, and I’m happy to benefit from that accident of history,” Garcia said.

He was then asked if he would have still applied for silk if someone other than his wife was now President and could he distance his silk from any notion of patronage.

“Let’s retreat from butcher’s axes and surgeon’s scalpels. Let’s talk about light and heat. I think all Trinbagonians could understand the reference to light and heat.

“It makes no difference in this process who occupies the President’s office. The difference is made earlier, way down in the process. The process begins with the AG inviting applications, the process proceeds with the AG engaging in consultations with the CJ with respect to those applications.

“The process continues with the AG, having the benefit of such consultations, then having a discussion with the Prime Minister about who among the applicants ought to be awarded SC status, and the process further continues with the PM as head of Cabinet, making a recommendation or in fact, giving the direction or giving advice, I think is the constitutional phraseology to Her or His Excellency, whoever that might be, and Her or His Excellency then acts in accordance with section 80(1) of the Constitution. There really isn’t a matter of choice in that regard.”

“As plain as I can be, it made no difference to me whether it had been Her Excellency (Kangaloo) who is in the office of President or any other person.” Garcia said this was the first time he had applied for silk.

“The last time this took place I think it was 2013. One converses, one has discussions with one’s colleagues, one’s mentors in the profession and it was felt that at that time, it was not quite the right time for me to apply.

“And again, when notice of the applications was given (for 2023), colleagues got in touch with me, seniors got in touch with me, people who are my mentors got in touch with me and suggested the time was right.”

He said that in life, timing is sometimes everything, “and this just happened to be the right time in terms of the advice I was receiving from many, many quarters.”

“That is the story of how I came to apply now and not before.”

President Kangaloo’s brother Colin opted not to meet with reporters.

Silk was also conferred on:

* Deputy DPP Joan Honore-Paul

* Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel Ida Eversley

* Independent Senator Anthony Vieira

* Angostura chairman Terrence Bharath

* Heritage Petroleum chairman Michael Quamina

* John Heath

* Ronnie Bissessar

* Larry Lalla

* Lesley-Ann Lucky-Samaroo

* Rishi Dass

* Jason Mootoo

* Ravi Rajcoomar

* Dipnarine Rampersad

* Bernard Shepherd

* Rajiv Persad.

AG Reginald Armour, SC, was asked by reporters about calls for a new process to name silks.

Saying the process had existed since pre-independence, Armour said he did not accept that there was political interference in the process.

“There are calls for review. I happen to know because when I was president of the Law Association I participated in that, and that (review) is under way.”

Armour said he hoped the new silks represent a wide cross section of the profession including criminal law, civil law, drafting, and other non-advocate areas. “Not all those who were entitled, were awarded today. That is a work in progress.”

Asked about the optics of some of the appointments, the AG replied, “I consulted with the CJ before I made my recommendations to the PM. I also spoke to Mrs Seebaran-Suite as LATT president who to her credit recused herself because she was one of the names under consideration. She passed that baton to other senior members of LATT with whom I had discussions.

“So the optics are that it is a process which involves more than just the PM who makes the recommendation to the President and the optics serve to ensure a fair, transparent consultative process.” (See Page 5)