The OECS Bar Association was formed 31 years ago in 1989 “out of the dire need then to improve the terms and conditions of service for the members of the Judiciary.” It has since evolved as a regional body that acts as “the voice of the Judges who [are] unable to speak for themselves and to agitate on behalf of themselves.” In that regard, the Bar cherishes its primary role of “advancing, protecting and promoting the independence of the judiciary and defending it from attacks that it deems to be unwarranted.”
The originally stated aims and objectives of the OECS Bar is not limited to being a loud hypocritical voice for Judges, who are appointed by politicians to correctly interpret the law and to dispense justice. The OECS Bar Association also lists, among its overall objectives, the noble ideals of expressing concerns with respect to questions of fundamental human rights, justice and the rule of law and to undertake any action which in its judgement may contribute to the protection and preservation of the fundamental rights and conditions for a well ordered society.
Other objectives, which the OECS Bar claims but seemingly unable to achieve include;
– support of the independence of the Judiciary (from its dependence on Prime Ministers, who finance the court, secure their tenure and unduly influence (real or perceived) the outcome of matters before the court involving the very governments on whom they depend for survival;
– the promotion of the improvement of the administration of justice in this jurisdiction;
– dealing with all matters affecting the legal profession and to take such action thereon as may be deemed expedient so as to promote, preserve, and protect its interests and that of members of the Association;
– develop, recommend and promulgate rules relating to professional conduct such as ensuring the passage of the Legal Professional Act in jurisdictions like Dominica, where the DLP government has failed to pass such an Act that has been in draft and circulation for comments for over 30 years and on which the OECS Bar called the same government to take swift action in 2012);
– promote and support desirable measures of law reform such as calling and supporting the passage of Bail Act;
-express the collective opinion of the Bar in such quarters as it is deemed from time to time to be desirable and to make or support representations to government, the judiciary and other appropriate bodies on questions affecting the legal profession such as the lack proper physical and adequate human resources for an efficient justice system in the region;
-protect the public right of access to the Courts and the right to timely, fair and non-politically influenced judgments instead of the continuing harassing of opposition political leaders and frustrated citizens when they express disgust with the inefficiency of our legal system that is stifling in inordinate delay especially when dealing with matters involving the official opposition in Dominica.
The two Bar Associations in question must be careful in their habitual hurriedness to react to a manipulative Senior Counsel and in assisting him to grind his many political axes of hatred and division in Dominica. We seem to be thin-skinned and knee-jerking to the mildest of criticism by the people and their elected representatives in opposition, while encouraging our people to become more submission, docile, subservient and increasingly tolerant to corrupt and bad governance.
Both the local and regional Bar Associations should cease and desist from the practice of seeking to stifle healthy criticism in a developing democracy. Our expectation is for institutions like the Bar Association to fight for the right of people to express themselves freely whether informed or not rather than promoting a culture of fear that restricts and denies citizens the right to voice their concerns respectfully free of personal attacks and threats.
To suggest that a judge may have been politically influenced and may have been biased in his decision on a matter of significant constitutional importance cannot qualify as “vicious attack” on a judge. We expect the officers of the court to jealously protect our Constitutional right and freedom of speech to the extent that such speech is not tainted with malice, defamatory remarks nor threatening the security of the state. Dominica is still a democracy and our people have a Constitutional and legal right to form an opinion and to respectfully express such opinion in displaying dissatisfaction and/or disgust with what they consider to be a politically motivated decision. Indeed, the Bar may genuinely believe that the opinion is not well-informed and factual nevertheless, it is opinion that one is entitled to express without fear of condemnation, persecution or prosecution.
The fact that Senior Counsel and his obedient minions may not have agreed with the opinion of Mr. Linton is no justification to classify his humble opinion as equivalent to criminal misconduct. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security are overstretching the matter. The hasty reaction of the Bar is unacceptable and must be condemned. It is for such reasons that a plurality of Dominicans is questioning the true intent of the OECS Bar – not necessarily the heavily SC-influenced leadership of the Local Bar, as its politically driven intention is very evident. The alacrity of these coordinated condemnations is striking compared to the deafening silence of the Bars when much more egregious matters deserving of condemnation are revealed.
Unfortunately, the man on the village mini-bus is becoming increasingly suspicious of the regional Bar in its loud defense of the judiciary. As far as the people of Dominica and by extension the OECS are concerned, the judiciary will get the respect it deserves when it earns that respect in terms of the timing and quality of its decisions on matters brought to its attention for consideration. Dominicans will not forget the judicial engineering of Guyanese Justice G. Thom in the Skerrit /St. Jean matter and likewise they will not be quiet when another similar judgement of Guyanese Judge Glasgow without a clean debate and free expression of opinion.
The people are suspicious of the Bar Associations and are increasingly condemning these organizations as “cult-like institutions” that are primarily concerned with giving support and protection to members of a brotherhood. They consider the constant attacks and condemnations of the Leader of Opposition by the Local and OECS Bar Associations as exacerbating the rapid erosion of public confidence in the system of justice and the decline of its integrity, credibility and professionalism. Were the Bar Associations to pay close attention to the vile utterances and repugnant conduct of some prominent senior officers of the court in our jurisdiction, they would be ashamed of issuing condemnation for such mild statements of Mr. Linton.
As a social media commentator recently opined, now that the OECS Bar and the DLP–influenced Dominican Bar have for the 3rd time in recent times exposed their unprofessionalism and gross bias in conveniently reacting to the commands of one Senior Counsel, they cannot revert to silence. We welcome their new found voice. Therefore, the Bars must continue to speak up and to give voice the real concerns of the people. They must now focus on their main mission statement, aims and objectives in giving sound advice and directing the court and our government to be more efficient in the execution of their functions for the good governance of the people they serve.
The support of both the DLP-influenced Dominica Bar and the Senior Counsel directed OECS Bar would be welcome in joining the United Workers Party in calling on Dominica to fear no more and to stand up courageously to fight in defense of their decaying democracy.
In that regard, the people are calling on both the local and regional Bar Associations to join the collective voice of patriotic Dominicans to strengthen our Integrity in Public Office (IPO) legislation and strict adherence to the provisions of Public Procurement legislation in order to eliminate corrupt practices within the government among other ventures including;
– Pursuing and implement legislative and administrative reform to ensure that basic practices like the spirit of consultation as contemplated in our Constitution is well-respected and adhered in practice as required by law;
– the enactment of Freedom of Information and WhistleBlower Protection legislation in Dominica to enhance the integrity and transparency in governance;
– the construction of a proper Court building or Hall of Justice in Dominica to house two or more spacious, well equipped and functioning Court rooms; one Master’s Court and at least 4 magistrates courts with special Family/Labour courts, which would necessitate the recruitment of more magistrates and judges to ensure that the significant backlog of cases in our court system are dealt with expeditiously thereby killing the “TARDY JUDICIAL BUG” that both the local and regional Bars appear not to be concerned about.