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Petty Politics in the Bar Association?

June 15, 2015

by

Dr. Lawrence A. Joseph

      Section 4 of the Legal Profession Act of 2011 fully endorses the continuance of the Grenada Bar Association which was established many years before the enactment of this legislation. It is the body to which all attorneys in Grenada are entitled to become members. The purposes of the Association are, inter alia, to maintain and improve the standards of conduct of its members; to represent and protect the interest of the legal profession in Grenada; to assist the public in all matters relating to law; to promote good relations within the profession, with the general public and with persons concerned in the administration of justice; to promote, maintain and support the administration of justice and the rule of law; and to provide ongoing public education programmes on basic issues of law and current legislation.

      The work of the Association is therefore a most noble one and it is the expectation of a vast majority of people that a high degree of “noblesse oblige” ought to emanate from its membership. However recent events have cast a very dark shadow on certain doctrinaire positions which seem to be held by certain members of this body.

On Thursday 21st May of this year the Association had its Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the purpose of entertaining reports and for the holding of elections of officers to the Bar Council. At that meeting two persons were nominated to the post of President. They were Ruggles Ferguson and James Bristol: both worthy gentlemen. The voting resulted in the nominees receiving 18 votes each so the Returning Officer could not declare a winner. As a consequence, a run-off had to take place at the continuation of the AGM on Tuesday 9th June last. Ruggles Ferguson eventually won the election for President with 56 votes to Bristol’s 26.

On reflection upon the whole episode, one is most tempted to come to the conclusion that a lot of petty politics played a significant role during the process of the Bar elections. One is also tempted to conclude that if this trend is allowed to continue, then the membership of the Association may lose sight of the main purposes for which the Association was created.

Fortunately, the majority of members of the Association seem to have now come to the realization that a minor grouping within its ranks is pushing its own political agenda. This grouping is referred to by some as “the Secret Five”. The Secret Five worked clandestinely especially before the first day of the AGM by skillfully pulling off an electioneering ambush against the incumbent President, Ruggles Ferguson. After the first day of the AGM when the votes were tied, a member of the grouping even went so far as to publish an article in a local newspaper, asking her “comrade brother”, Ruggles Ferguson to step down from the nomination. It must be made clear here that this author is not against any person giving support to any particular candidate of his or her choice; however what this author abhors is the twisted messages which were given to other members of the Association by the Secret Five in order to solicit support for their selfish ideals.

The agenda of the Secret Five was clear but perhaps it was not all of its members who understood its full ramifications. Its membership intended to give support to a candidate who has already publicly expressed disapproval with the idea of having the Caribbean Court of Justice as being the final Court of Appeal for Grenada; that candidate also publicly expressed disapproval with what he considered to be the Bar’s lack of adequate involvement in the overall Constitution Reform process. The group’s intention was to score a political victory by eventually having the Bar take a position against the present Constitution Reform process. It is not that some members of the Secret Five are not supportive of certain elements of reform which are being proposed; it is just that they see a successful outcome of the process as being a feather in the cap of the incumbent government and this they cannot endorse. Political pettiness cannot be better exemplified.

      This phenomenon outlines the situation in which many Grenadians find themselves. Some understand that certain development projects would be beneficial to the country as a whole but because of the feathering of the cap syndrome, they openly go against those projects and hope that those projects   would fail! Was it not our local calypsonian Sheldon Douglas who sang:  “We hate what we like”? I observe with dismay how happy some are when Grenada receives dismal ratings from certain international institutions. A greater paradox cannot be better exemplified!!

It was good that the general membership of the Bar Association saw through the motives of the Secret Five and blatantly rejected those motives. The Bar as a whole triumphed! The lesson to be learnt here is: There is absolutely nothing wrong in playing stupid at times as long as you do not actually become stupid in the process.

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