The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Bar Association has given its blessing to the Attorney General’s Reference (Constitutional Questions) Bill, which was passed in Parliament on Thursday, amidst strong protest by opposition lawmakers.

Under the new law, the attorney general, with the approval of Cabinet, can ask the Court of Appeal to give a legal opinion on how some sections of the Constitution are to be interpreted.

The legal opinion, however, would be non-binding.

In wrapping up the debate Thursday night, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament that he had received a letter from the president of the Bar Association confirming the group’s support for the law.

But opposition Senator, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste suggested that the Bar Association’s position was reached in untoward circumstances.

“They changed the venue,” she said in apparent reference to the venue where the meeting took place.

“One good thing is that the Bar Association came alive,” said Bacchus-Baptiste, a lawyer.

Gonsalves said that the only time something is right is when it accords with Bacchus-Baptiste’s opinion.

“In another area, they may call that self-righteousness. But that’s for a separate forum. That’s not from this forum,” he said.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs, went on to say that the Bar Association’s letter says that on May 4, the executive was presented with a draft of the law for circulation to all members of the association.

On May 15, a general meeting was convened for the primary purpose for giving all legal practitioners an opportunity to provide feedback and suggest possible amendments to the draft bill.

The members of the association were invited to the meeting via email.

At the meeting, there was a short presentation by Parnell Campbell QC and those present made their presentations on the issue and Kezron Walters of the Attorney General’s Chambers provided clarity on some points raised.

The letter said there were no major concerns about the draft bill save for a few minor typographical errors, which Walters indicated had been addressed.

There was some ambiguity identified at section 7, which states “and provided that which has not been instructed by an interested party”.

After the discussion, a vote was taken and a resolution passed that the Bar Association support the draft bill, the prime minister cited the letter as saying.

“But this correspondence, we wish to inform you of the above and to wish this draft bill safe passage through its various stages,” he further said, reading from the letter.

“Now, Mr. Speaker, the Christian Council wants it, the Bar Association says fine, the whole world says yes to it, including several in the Caribbean. The honourable leader of the opposition had agreed with me on May the third, along with the blessing, the benediction of the honourable speaker…” Gonsalves said of the law.

Among other things, Opposition Leader, Godwin Friday, asked why the opinions given by the court under the bill are not binding.

“I think that in the interest of avoiding doubt with respect to how the court may rule in a matter that the question, once determined, should be treated as a decision of the court, rather than an opinion of the court.”

He said that in so doing, litigants who may have a live matter before the court would know how the question is, rather than might, be determined.

6 replies on “Bar Association supports AG’s Reference law”

    1. Vincy Lawyer says:

      It’s called the doctrine of SEPARATION OF POWERS!!!!

      Well finally the Bar Association came alive and made it clear in relation to points of the proposed Bill. I have read and re-read the Bill and I yet to find the concerns in relation to the removal of the Privy Council etc as raised by a “seasoned” lawyer and an ex PM, who clearly is always wrong in recent times, as it relates to interpretation of any law.

  1. This law is just one more unnecessary rung in the ladder of “delaying tactics” and “Citizenry Frustration” by this bad minded and vindictive ULP Administration, designed only to frustrate the efforts of citizens who may attempt to seek constitutional justice in a swift and timely manner.

    My questions are, why has this bunch of ‘sick’ buccaneers and unconscionable pirates sought to enact this piece of legislation at this time? What is the mischief that it seeks to address? if in fact there was a mischief, what was the extent of the problem created? How would this law bring about greater benefits to citizens who seek to challenge the Government on constitutional grounds? And lastly, how close are we to Venezuela in all forms?

  2. From observation David S in my opinion, we here in SVG are sadly sleepwalking into an Venezuelan disaster!

    Ralph Gonsalves and his U.L.P do talk the talk of concerns for us Vincentians but when it comes down to it, they will never walk the walk for the simply reason, that it is in their nature to spin spurious yarns of pie-in-the-sky, while begging their way around the globe because they have no good economic plan for jobs creation!

    It would appear that this administration understands too well the workings of crony Capitalism and nepotism for their own well-being.

    Ask yourself where is that pseudo-socialist pal Lula of Brazil? In jail for corruption! Where is his successor Dilma Rousseff? Impeached for the misuse of Government funds. Where are the Venezuelan petrodollars? What type of Government now runs Venezuela and just who are their friends?

    Pseudo-socialist or is it Buccaneers to boot!

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