Friday, December 15, 2017

Solicitor General’s silence says much more

 Public education is key to truly understanding this saga revolving around the Attorney General and the former solicitor general, especially with some who try to divert, mislead and play smart with foolishness.

The Solicitor General (SG), the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, the Chief State Solicitor and the Director of Public Prosecu­tions (DPP) have the commonality in that they are all appointed by the JLSC (Judicial and Legal Services Commis­sion), are independent and supposed to be insulated from the political directorate. 

All the previously mentioned office-holders, with the exception of the DPP (who is in charge of criminal law and has full autonomy and is unanswerable to political machinations—“only to the court of public opinion”), report directly to the Attorney General under our constitutional arrangements. They are hired and disciplined by the JLSC but they work day to day under the purview of the sitting Attor­ney General.

It must be highlighted that while the Solicitor General is head of civil litigation and advising the State on all aspects of civil law and representing the State in both constitutional/civil proceedings, the office-holder’s work and advice must be sanctioned by the sitting Attorney General, who they are answerable to. While the Solicitor General provides advice, direction and settlement of cases in civil matters for the State, the Attorney General has the ultimate say.

Now, turn to the current circumstan­ces. The post of Solicitor Gene­ral is like the ne plus ultra of one’s career, just like the DPP, Chief State Solicitor and Chief Par­lia­mentary Counsel. Previ­ous occupants of these posts only demitted office upon retirement or promotion—the preceding SG left to become an ombudsman and others before went into the magis­tracy. For­mer DPP Geoffrey Henderson left to join the judiciary. 

All one has to do is have an iota of sense and look at the fact that the post of Solicitor General, like other legal head positions appointed by JLSC, offers one permanence, longevity, great benefits and being at the pinnacle of the Public Service and one’s pro­fession. 

According to the Salaries Review Commission, the Solicitor General receives a salary of $26,300 per month; professional allowance of $6,250; a duty allowance of $2,650; transport allowance of $2,950; service allowance of $3,500; and a housing allowance of $5,750 per month; and to work till age 65. 

The former solicitor general left office without any brouhaha or public spat, citing personal reasons. Given the office-holder’s reality at the time, the only recourse was to pen the sitting prime minister, hoping an independent panel of jurists and forensic auditors would be formed as a commission of enquiry for impartial fact-finding.

It must be noted the former SG seems quite graceful, tactful and very private. Notice her words in the last statement to the public: “I was directed by the Attorney General...”, and the fact she says, quite rightly, that seeing the Prime Minister decided to send her 

letter back to the Attorney General, she no longer had a role to play in the matter—very defining and telling is the impli­cation here.

What remains for the blind to see and the deaf to hear loudly and clearly is the former solicitor general was willing to give all of it up and demit quietly, instead of getting into a verbal massacre. It is passing strange how many in the legal fraternity are quiet but, then again, that has been the norm for awhile, especially as “man has to eat”.

Winston Theodore

St Augustine