It is not the practice of The Bar Association of Guyana, to issue a further Statement having previously stated the position of the Association on an issue. However, the manner in which the Hon. Attorney General, Mr. Bobby Gossai and Mr. Michael Munroe have sought to respond to the Statement of the Association issued on 29th December, 2021, by way of interview on the programme “Parliamentary Update” on the said evening, by necessity requires a departure from the normal practice of the Bar, primarily due to their blatant and manifest retreat from factual occurrences. It has accordingly become necessary to set the record straight.
The good gentlemen, inter alia:
- Conflated and did not distinguish between consultation on the Policy and the Bill. A distinction which we made in our said Statement.
- Erroneously gave the impression that there was adequate meaningful consultation with the Association and in so doing displayed a complete lack of understanding of the legal requirements of a consultative process notwithstanding extensive judicial pronouncement on this issue. The gentlemen used adjectives such as “elaborate interactions” and “quite a number of engagements” without disclosing that –
- There was only one (1) meeting with the Association since the publication of the Bill and that publication was only some eight (8) days prior to its passing;
- The meeting was held at the request of the Association and not on the invitation of the subject Ministry,
- The meeting was held on the 28th December, 2021, that is, the day before the Bill was expected to be debated and passed;
- A copy of the Bill was not sent to the Bar for consideration or comment prior to its publication as is the usual course with such legislation;
- The meeting held at the Pegasus Hotel on 13th December, 2021, and which was referred to in the Association’s Statement at paragraph 5, was in effect a presentation inclusive of other bodies, was convened with less than one (1) working day notice and without the benefit of the draft Bill, despite request; and
- Further erroneously represented that there was a meeting with the Association that lasted until 1AM and where an Association representative was present.
Most alarming however is that neither Mr. Gossai nor Mr. Munroe, thought it fit to disclose that they had promised the Bar Association and undertook to provide a considered written response to its comments and queries by 2:15 PM on the 28th December, 2021 at its meeting on the said day, notwithstanding their reference to the said meeting. A response, which they further did not disclose, has not to date been provided. This dexterity with the truth speaks for itself. The process was not complete.
Further, there is very little, if any point in consultation if the representation is in effect ignored, particularly where the question of ability to carry out a function is the subject of opinion and derogatory remarks concerning the skill involved.
With regard to the latter, we note that the statements of the Hon. Attorney General in this regard appear to be based on personal opinion and not that of independent assessment. The repetition of, and not withdrawal or apology for the insulting, offensive and disrespectful remarks towards the competency of the Guyana Bar, while not surprising is nevertheless unfortunate.
We maintain that there is no justification for legal services to be anything other than 100% (mandatory).
The promise of continued engagement and review of the percentage target is of little comfort in the face of the breach of prior undertaking and display of mal fides.
The Bar Association will accordingly continue to take all steps to ensure the protection of the Guyana Bar and upholding of the Rule of Law.
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