What I learnt at the OCCBA summit, Part 1
On November, 30th 2019 Barbados celebrated its 53rd Independence Day. Shoppers in the USA and in other countries were recovering from ‘Black Friday’, dubbed one of the best shopping days of the year - the day after their Thanksgiving and the Organization of the Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) held its biannual Council meeting in the luxurious building of Law Association of Trinidad & Tobago (LATT) Headquarters on Frederick Street, Port of Spain in Trinidad- the new home of the OCCBA secretariat.
This article is about the last event.
It was not the first time that the writer had been graciously invited by the President of OCCBA, Mr. Ruggles Ferguson of Grenada, to attend one of the law conferences of OCCBA or the OECS law conferences. The timing was right, the writer accepted the invitation to attend the law summit in Trinidad and Tobago. A similar invitation was no doubt extended to every lawyer in the English speaking Caribbean, and those who had served on the local Bar Associations of their respective countries or islands would be acutely aware of the valiant efforts of Mr. Ferguson to revitalize this organization. Two years later, and fifty years after its inception, OCCBA is back on its feet thanks to Mr. Ferguson and the executive of OCCBA.
The weekend of activities included the law summit on Friday, with some distinguished and notable speakers. After registering with the Treasurer of OCCBA, Ms. Lorraine Debra Glace of Saint Lucia, we were ushered into the conference room to a pan rendition of the National Anthem of Trinidad & Tobago.
We started with the Welcome Remarks by the President of LATT, Mr. Douglas Mendes, QC. This was followed by brief Remarks by Mr. Ruggles Ferguson. The keynote speaker, Ms. Paulette Brown, the first black lady to become President of the American Bar Association was introduced by Shirlan Zita Barnwell of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Her topic was, ‘Remembrance of our Legacy: The ongoing importance of the role of the OCCBA in the Maintenance of the Rule of Law’. After some discussion of this refreshing historical perspective of the Rule of law, and a short health break, was Justice Peter Jamador, judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice, appointed in July 2019, ‘Procedural Fairness for Attorneys: Increasing Awareness, Demanding Accountability’. One of the more memorable presentations focused on how clients see lawyers, judges and the legal system as a whole with empirical research conducted largely in Trinidad and Tobago.
After some discussion, during the lunch break, the local Bar Association honoured Mr. Hendrickson Seunath, SC, and fellow Rotarian for his sterling contribution to OCCBA. This was followed by Mr. Reginald Armour, SC, Chairperson of the Council of Legal Education, ‘The Future of Caribbean Legal Education Challenges, Changes & Competition’. Once again, there was some discussion on the topic before moving to the final presentation by Mrs. Georgia Gibson-Henlin, QC, Conference Co-Chair, Continuing Legal Education Committee, Jamaica Bar Association, ‘Impact of the Money Laundering Legislation on the Legal Profession in the Region: Rights and legal professional privilege under threat?’ There was a spirited discussion followed by the closing remarks.
A few hours later, we savoured an evening of finery and dining with the Law Association of Trinidad & Tobago at their annual Gala dinner and Awards evening. Members of the fraternity who had been in practice for fifty years or more were honoured. Hundreds of attorneys attended this special evening. It felt like a night at the Oscars with all the glitz and glamour of beautifully dressed Trinidadians.
Saturday turned into a day-long Council meeting to discuss the various issues concerning the participating Bar Associations in the region. That evening some delegates took in a Christmas musical, Christmas Joy at Queens Hall, near the hosting hotel, The Hilton, leaving Sunday to do some sightseeing; visit with family and friends or travel back home.
The writer enjoyed the weekend of continuing legal education, socializing, food (finally tried doubles) and culture. The presentations were informative, engaging and practical. The social activities were entertaining and fun. The musical in particular showcased some of Trinidad’s musical talents.
A few of those lawyers in the region who had planned to attend and couldn’t make it, were treated by updates and photos via whatsapp of happenings of the OCCBA Trinidad weekend.
Ms. Trudy O. Glasgow is a practising attorney at the law firm Trudy O. Glasgow & Associates, a court-appointed mediator and author in Saint Lucia (and has also taught law at University level in the UK) * Ms. Glasgow is also the former Vice President of the Bar Association of Saint Lucia (2015-2019); President Elect of the Rotary Club of Gros Islet; Chairperson of the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) and Co-Chair of 100 women who care, Saint Lucia chapter.
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Next article: What I learnt at the OCCBA summit, Part 2
Coming soon: ‘Sir Denis Byron: law legend’, a book by Dr. Francis Alexis, QC