I would like to share my first months in office with you so that you may understand some of the work of CLA.
After the initial settling into my role as President, I found myself as a guest at the International Lawyers Cricket event, as cricket has always been a great passion of mine. At the match, I had an opportunity to meet the Secretary General, Baroness Scotland, informally and discuss cricket and of course the CLA.
During the match, I was invited to attend the 'India Business Awards 2017' event which was held at the House of Commons at Westminster celebrating the UK-Special relationship with India. At the function I met a number of Ministers, Parliamentarians, Lawyers, and Awardees, and also the Secretary General who was speaking at the event. In her closing address, Baroness Scotland said in response to references to culture, that among other things, cricket was also part of culture. She stressed that beside India & UK there is third dimension called the Commonwealth.
I visited the Southwestern Institute for International and Comparative, Plano, Texas, USA where a two day symposium in International Law and Global Markets was held. The symposium was part of a five week course undertaken by the Centre for American and International Law. There were 49 lawyers from across the world attending the course, plus others who others who came to attend the symposium.
As we are almost coming to the end of the second quarter, I thought I would share with you my second quarterly report.
It should be noted that my reports sits beside the exceptional day to day work done by our CEO & Secretary General, Mrs Katherine Eden Haig, from our Secretariat London and I am grateful for the assistance she provides me in my role as President and to the CLA.
The month of July was an opportunity for general interaction among the members of the legal fraternity in Delhi. Delhi, being the Capital city of India, and as the Supreme Court is located there, it is a popular meeting point for a number of lawyers from across India. I attended a one day conference of International Law Association in Delhi.
A major part of the month of August was spent in either preparing to take the cricketing lawyers to Sri Lanka and in Sri Lanka for the 6th Lawyers Cricket World Cup. Twelve teams of Lawyers from Australia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England and West Indies participated in the event.
I was invited to speak at the opening ceremony. The Hon. Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Justice Priyasath Dep, was there to declare open the event. Alongside the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka De Silva, the legendary Sri Lankan Test Cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga, Justice Suresh Chandra, and others were present on the dais. I was present at the closing ceremony to give away some of the prizes. Justice Suresh Chandra formally gave away the cup to the winning Australian team.
The event was a good opportunity to meet and interact with the President and office bearers of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
During the course of Lawyers Cricket in Sri Lanka I was in touch with a number of Lawyers from the Caribbean and told them about my intention to visit in the following month.
I received an invitation to attend the Mediation Symposium in Trinidad between 11 and 13 September. That provoked my visit to the Caribbean. Loy Weste from Antigua was helpful in getting me across to other Islands in the Eastern Caribbean during my visit. Sanjeev Datadin from Guyana was instrumental in getting me across to Guyana and I thank both Loy and Sanjeev for their assistance.
Sadly, the hurricane did not allow me to travel to the Caribbean and on 8th September as planned. I was informed that Hurricane Irma passed through without any damage to Antigua, although Barbuda, and their island was badly damaged. I delayed my trip until the 10th September.
I landed in Port of Spain, Trinidad on 10th September to attend the three day mediation symposium hosted by the Mediation Board of Trinidad of Tobago. The first day, 11th September began with school children sitting around various tables and Justice Kokaram inviting them to express themselves, by putting to them simple questions relating to conflicts. The school children were of different age groups. The children went to the extent saying that the Members of Parliament should behave well during the Parliamentary proceedings.
In this background there was a formal opening of the symposium in the afternoon by the President of Trinidad & Tobago, the Hon. Anthony Thomas A. Caramona. Stressing the importance of mediation in today's world, the President said that if the concept of mediation had developed during the early part of last century, the world would not have witnessed the two world wars.
About 300 delegates from across Trinidad attended the symposium, with a sprinkling of delegates and speakers from other Caribbean jurisdictions. The symposium comprehensively covered every aspect of conflicts that arise and about its resolution through mediation. Conflicts arising within the family, workplace, trade union, urban community, trade/commerce, psychological aspects etc., were comprehensively dealt with and discussed during various sessions between 11th and 13th September. In the entire Caribbean Islands, mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism is well entrenched and they have something to offer to the rest of the world.
When I was invited to speak at the closing, I said that we must think big by creating a platform in the Caribbean, in the Commonwealth and beyond. Taking my cue from the President's statement at the beginning of the symposium, I said that these initiatives would act as catalyst and mediation as a concept would be useful to ward off the possible third world war.
The symposium provided enough opportunity for me to informally speak to various delegates about CLA.
Justice Kokaram, as he is referred to, as a Head of their Mediation Board, brought to the fore, his thought provoking and innovative ideas, to do excellent work in presenting such a successful and comprehensive mediation symposium.
The symposium came to an end with a presentation on Star Wars and the future of mediation.
For the second leg of my tour, I flew on 14th morning to Antigua, the land of Vivian Richards, the legendary cricketer. It is located close to the northern part of the group of Caribbean Islands. What surprised me after landing at the modern Bird's International Airport (probably the best in Caribbean) completing the immigration process, I came out to see Loy Weste waiting outside. He took me to his office located almost in front of the magnificent court buildings. After having a glimpse of his office and after meeting Loy's senior colleague Mr Arthur I was taken to the court to have a meeting with the Hon. Justices Williamson, Thom, and Henry. They were happy to know about the activities of CLA, and learn of our recent statements supporting the judiciary in Kenya. Earlier, the Registrar concerned took me around the court and introduced me to her staff and to the person in charge of the ‘Mediation Cell’.
Loy, and his wife (who works in the same office) assisted me in ensuring that everything was in place for my next visit to Commonwealth of Dominica. I thank them for their generous hospitality and assistance and hope that my visit has created stronger bonds with CLA.
On 14th evening I landed in Dominica, for the third leg of my tour, I realised that there were a number of lawyers from different jurisdictions in the same flight coming to attend the Regional Conference of the Lawyers of the Eastern Caribbean States. The lady Vice-President of the Dominica Bar, Noelize N. Knight Didier, was at the Airport, to welcome the delegates and assist with the immigration process.
It was the 14th OECS Regional Lawyers Conference in the Commonwealth of Dominica, 15-17 September. The conference centre was located next to the house of the Prime Minister, Mr Roosevelt Skerrit, who set the ball in motion with his opening remarks along with the Chief Justice of Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Justice Hon. Dame Janice M. Pereira.
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean State (OECS) Bar Association is a federation of Bar Associations of Nine Eastern Caribbean States with a Common Currency and a Common Supreme Court. The Nine States Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Grenada, Anguilla, Monserrat & Virgin Islands, are smaller but independent States. The OECS Bar Association came into existence 14 years ago. They meet annually for a conference and their Executive meet quarterly at various islands, both on rotation.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has just completed 50 years of its existence. It has 6 Judges and among them 3 are women which include the Chief Justice. They sit in rotation in various Islands to hear Appeals from the respective High Courts.
On the second day OECS formally recognised me and announced my attendance at the conference. Subsequently they invited me to observe the meeting of their Bar Council on afternoon of the 16th. At the meeting Thaddeus M. Antoine, the President of the OECS Bar Association formally introduced me to the council and asked me to give my welcome remarks.
During the course of the second day there was concern about reports that another hurricane was developing and could hit Dominica. On 17th morning when everyone the word spread that the hurricane Maria was going to hit the next day.
Fortunately my flight to Grenada was not cancelled. I only realised the severity when the hurricane Maria hit Dominica the next day. It was devastating and even the roof of the Prime Minister's house was blown out and my flight on 18th to Port of Spain was cancelled.
On the afternoon of the 18th the President of Grenada Bar Association, Lady Anande T. Joseph, came down to meet me. I went to the High Court and I was introduced to other office bearers and some members of the Bar. I had a chance meeting with a senior lady lawyer who had just come out of a mediation. She briefly told me about the development of mediation in Grenada. After going through the court building facing the sea, I was taken to a hall for the purposes of our meeting. At their request I spoke about CLA, and its activities, my own background and the judicial system prevailing in India.
Later on Ruggles Ferguson, the past President of Grenada Bar and OECS Bar, showed me around. Our council member from Caribbean, Peter Maynard, has regular contact with Mr Ferguson. There will be an Arbitration summit in the Bahamas in January and that will be an opportunity for me to meet with other lawyers in the area and also to make a short visit to Jamaica and Belize.
On 19th I was taken to the Maurice Bishop International Airport in Grenada, where, after going through immigration I was taken to the VIP lounge. A little later I realised that the Prime Minister his Excellency Dr Keith Mitchell was in attendance. I was introduced to him and during our brief meeting we discussed the Commonwealth, CLA, hurricanes, global warming and the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly which was in session.
As circumstances forced me to spend an extra night in Grenada I only reached Guyana only on 19th night for the fifth and last leg of my tour to Caribbean and therefore the visit to Berbice Bar in Guyana on 19th afternoon was cancelled.
I was able to visit the court in Georgetown where I met a number of lawyers and a sitting Judge of the High Court. On the 20th September there was a dinner reception. The President, Kamal Ramkarran, Secretary Pauline Chase, Vice President and few other members of the Executive of the Guyana Bar Association were present.
Earlier in the day meetings were arranged with the Prime Minister of Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Hon. Moses V. Nagamootoo. During our meeting he recalled his association with the veteran cricketer Rohan Kanhai from Guyana. He also recalled our meeting last year when he came to Delhi to address the lawyers.
Overall it was an excellent opportunity to interact with the many members of legal fraternity, its leaders, and develop a deeper understanding about the function of the Bar Associations and the judicial systems across the Caribbean and the challenges they face.
All the Caribbean countries are independent Island States excepting Guyana, which is part of the South American continent. They are all practising democracies with independent judiciary. The Eastern Caribbean countries have a common Supreme Court, so the judges of the Supreme Court go to various Islands on rotation to hear Appeals. This year it has celebrated its 50th anniversary. There is a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), based in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which serves the entire Caribbean. It is on par with the Privy Council with some exceptions where jurisdiction of Privy Council jurisdiction is still invoked.
I am very much looking forward to meeting more of our members and colleagues across the Commonwealth during the next quarter. I encourage professional colleagues to join CLA and become a part of the worldwide network of legal professionals.
The Commonwealth Lawyers Association is an international non-profit organisation which exists to promote and maintain the rule of law throughout the Commonwealth by ensuring that an independent and efficient legal profession, with the highest standards of ethics and integrity, serves the people of the Commonwealth. www.commonwealthlawyers.com