Former Attorney General, Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh , passed away yesterday at the Balwant Singh Hospital, evoking sadness in the political circles and sparking an outpouring of kudos as “one of the best legal minds” in the Region.
Singh, 80, who also served as a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, presiding over the controversial 1997 General Elections, was admitted to the hospital earlier this week, before passing away around 19:00hrs. He had been ill for a number of years now. He resigned from the Attorney General position in 2009, and one month later sued the Government for his gratuity.
He served as Attorney General between 2001 and 2009. Born in 1933, Singh was admitted
to the bar in 1959.
Several government officials, including Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, were at the hospital last evening. So too was close family friend and Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan.
According to Minister of Legal Affairs, Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, the passing of Singh is a severe blow to Guyana and to the legal profession. According to Nandlall, the former AG was one of the best advocates he has ever encountered.
“He has participated in some of the biggest cases in Guyana. He was also part of the legal team in the trial of murder of Maurice Bishop (former Prime of Grenada) and in the trial of the Trinidad coup. He was well recognized in the Region.”
Nandlall described Singh as a mentor whom he started his legal work with at the AG office. “I would be eternally grateful to him for what I have learnt.”
A lawyer who was described as being an expert in all forms of law, perhaps Singh’s greatest assets were his eloquence which served him with distinction in Parliament and the courtroom, which he commanded by his very presence.
“Yet despite this, he has remained a very humble man. His loss will be a tremendous blow for the legal profession.”
Member of Parliament for A Partnership For National Unity (APNU), Joe Harmon, was also full of praise for the Senior Counsel. The Parliamentarian worked with the lawyer while he was Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission. “I was the Logistics and Security Officer. He was a very disciplined man with a mind of his own.”
However, Harmon believed that GECOM’s work had taken a toll on Singh who never recovered his health fully after the troubled 1997 elections, which ended in street protests and a court case.
“He was a very warm person.”
According to AFC leader Ramjattan, he was at the hospital yesterday during Singh’s final hours. “Obviously, this is a deep shock for us although we knew he was ill. He was one of the greatest lawyers that Guyana has known. His prowess in the courtroom was of the highest standards. Despite being a fierce competitor in the courtroom, he would come out afterwards, shake hands with the opposing lawyers. He was a very likable lawyer. I will greatly miss him”
Minister Manickchand said that President Donald Ramotar has been notified and “there is no doubt that Mr. Singh’s passing is a great blow to Guyana, the Cabinet and the legal profession.”
Manickchand too was mentored by the former AG.
In his final words of advice to the National Assembly in a farewell speech, back in 2009, Singh urged a more civilised manner in the deliberations in the House. “Heckling is an art. It is not a means to transform the National Assembly into a fish market…People must be conscious of what this National Assembly is…It is the highest forum of the land…it is where the people’s business is to be debated…it must be debated in a civilized and decent atmosphere.”
Singh was the Special Prosecutor in Grenada against Bernard Coard and others for the murder of the former Grenadian Prime Minister Bishop, among others.
His final act as Minister of Legal Affairs was to successfully amend the Constitution of Guyana to establish a Parliamentary Oversight Committee which will examine the affairs of the Disciplined Forces.
Meanwhile, President Ramotar in a statement said he is extremely saddened.
“Mr. Singh, also a Senior Counsel, was a man of high intellect, having amassed great experience during his legal life, both locally and internationally. He served Guyana with utmost distinction, pride and selflessness.”
According to the Head of State, Singh has given decades of service to Guyana, most in the legal profession, in which he was known as an outstanding legal luminary. “President Ramotar and First Lady Deolatchmee Ramotar, on behalf of the Government and people of Guyana express deepest condolence to the family and friends of the late Doodnauth Singh.”
Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, and his wife, Yvonne, also expressed shock, and recalled working with the former AG beginning in 1992. “He was a very brilliant lawyer and Guyana has lost a good son of the soil.”
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