PEOPLE PARTNERSHIP IS ABOUT FAIRNESS
Monday, October 15 2012
GOVERNMENT’s selection of a new legal team to represent the Ministry of Finance in the on-going Commission of Inquiry into the collapse of Colonial Life Insurance Company Limited (CLICO) and the Hindu Credit Union (HCU), was yesterday described by Congress of the People (COP) political leader Prakash Ramadhar as an act of fairness.
Ramadhar said, “The People’s Partnership is about fairness and we cannot have a select few, in any field, whether in legal or otherwise, getting all the work, all of the time.”
Speaking of his own self as an attorney, Ramadhar, who is the Minister of Legal Affairs, said for the 25 years he had been in private practice, he has never gotten a State brief.
Ramadhar was speaking to the media a Post national Council Media Conference at the party’s Operations Centre in Charlieville. Candidates contesting the party’s internal elections for various positions, except that of political leader were presented to the media.
Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein and Michael Quamina were fired via e-mail by Finance Minister Larry Howai and another legal team put in place, which consists of Law Association president Seenath Jairam SC; Port Authority chairman and COP chairman, Joseph Toney, and attorney Jagdeo Singh.
Toney, who is once again contesting the post of COP Chairman, confirmed yesterday at the party’s Operations Centre, that he had received a “junior brief” from the Ministry of Finance to represent the Ministry of Finance, which he added, was headed by former Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira. The Commission of Inquiry into Clico and HCU was initiated by the previous government.
Toney said, “I saw a headline today that I received a brief from Clico. That is entirely false. I have received a junior brief from the Ministry of Finance to represent the Ministry of Finance at the Commission of Inquiry. I shall be representing the Ministry of Finance which was in office at the time of the Clico/ HCU fiasco, so it is not to say I shall be representing the government of the day.
“In fact, I will be representing the Ministry of Finance under the stewardship of Mrs Karen Nunez-Tesheira.”
Asked yesterday what criterion was used to choose him, Toney said perhaps the ministry thinks he is an attorney worthy of representing it, adding “they thought I was a good lawyer and they thought I should be best able to represent them...that is how people pick lawyers.”
Commenting on the decision to change the Ministry of Finance legal team, several attorneys said yesterday that the Ministry of Finance is entitled to retain, like any client, lawyers of its choice to handle any matter on its behalf. They pointed out that it is the right of any client to disengage the services of his lawyer at any stage of the proceedings; that the legal practice is such that clients, for one reason or the other, may choose to retain the services of another lawyer at any time. No lawyer has a monopoly over any client and no lawyer has a right to any brief, an attorney said.
On the issue of whether it made economic sense to have the Ministry's legal team changed at this time, one attorney said any legal fee charged by attorneys must be reflective of the guidelines prescribed in the Legal Profession Act .
Hosein and Quamina had been retained by the Ministry of Finance under the watch of former Finance Minister Winston Dookeran. The Inquiry will resume on October 22 with evidence being taken on HCU. Evidence hearing for bClico will resume on October 25 .
Hosein is lead counsel for businessman Steve Ferguson in the Section 34 application filed by in the current constitutional matter challenging the repealing of the Administration of Justice Act.
Hosein was one of the lawyers whose bills were submitted to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan as part of the Bill of Costs submitted by Ferguson to the State as Ferguson sought to recover money owed to him by the State in legal matters he had won. Hosein also appeared for the State and for former PNM Public Administration Minister Dr Lenny Saith in the matter of Chandresh Sharma against Dr Saith under the Freedom of Information Act.
Hosein and Michael Quamina have also appeared for the State in several high-profile matters under the previous PNM administration. Quamina is the personal attorney of former Prime Minister Patrick Manning and has also appeared as counsel for several entities under the PNM administration.