The two members, who have since been identified as lawyers Miselle O’Brien-Norton and Patricia Dublin-Lewis, wrote to members of the Association on 18th February, suggesting that they had objected to the letters and had also requested that the law body not write to the Speaker and the Prime Minister, as was done last week.
In their letter to the membership, Dublin and Norton stated, “We wish to publicly place on the record and respectfully please be advised that, when it was indicated to us that the Law Council may be taking the position as referred to in the said letters, we indicated to the said Council, via email dated 5th February, 2013, that we dissented with the view that the Council should “call on the Prime Minister” about the tabling of the Motion of No Confidence before Parliament.”
They also indicated in their letter of 5th February, that they did not wish to be associated with any such statement; calling for the Vote of No Confidence.
“We have noted that the said letters were still sent. Upon perusal of same, we also noted the fact that nowhere in the said letters was it indicated that there were dissenting positions to the views expressed therein. The said letters have now been circulated to the media and the contents therein give the impression as though the position indicated therein was unanimous.”
Norton and her colleague, Mrs. Dublin, said they have received telephone calls from members who have expressed their concern that this matter was not raised with the general membership prior to the issue of the said letters. This is a point we also raised to the Council in our said email of February 5th. Once again, for clarity, we respectfully state that we disagreed with the Council calling on the Prime Minister to table the Motion of No Confidence and we wish to disassociate ourselves from the contents of the said letters of 11th February, 2013. This email has been sent as a result of the many calls received from concerned members of the Bar in regards to same.”
Mrs. Dublin-Lewis and O’Brien-Norton ended their letter by suggesting, “We hope this email will be taken in the spirit it is intended”.
But Bar Association President, Wilkin, did not hesitate in providing a response to his fellow legal practitioners and he outlined his position, in a letter sent to the general body of the association. We now publish the full text below, of that letter:
Please note the following in relation to the email … of Mrs. Patricia Dublin-Lewis and Miselle O’Brien-Norton:
1.The letter to the Speaker and the Prime Minister were sent with the approval of the Bar Council following a meeting of that body at which a quorum was present.
2.Seven members of Council approved the letters. It is not the practice of the Council, nor is it the norm for professional bodies, to disclose in letters to outside parties pursuant to or based on decisions of the Council, the votes for and against the decision.
3.The Council comprises ten members, seven therefore being a substantial majority.
4.The Council takes decisions on a majority basis not on a unanimous basis. Were the latter to be the case then any one of the ten members could control decisions of the Council.
5.Miselle and Pat have every right not to attend meetings of the Council and to dissent from its decisions when they do not attend.
6.The Council, as the governing and executive body of the Bar Association established by the Legal Profession Act (LPA) and in exercise of the powers set out in section 25 of the First Schedule to the LPA, took the view that the matters referred to in the letters, being matters of constitutional import and the rule of law, are matters on which it can write to public officials.
7.Section 5 of the LPA states the purposes of the Association. Subsection (f) states one of the purposes as “to promote, maintain and support the administration of justice and the rule of law”.
8. It is a pity that Pat and Miselle should construe the role of the Council at this time as being to deal primarily with the Registry.
9.Neither Miselle nor Pat have, in meetings over sixteen months, sought to constrain the role of the Council in that way nor to suggest that decisions of the Council have to be unanimous or ratified by the general membership.
10.The Council is elected by the general membership and can be replaced in whole or in part in accordance with the rules of the Association.
11.Elections are due by the end of March, and will be held without delay, at the AGM of the Association set for March 26th.
12.The Council respects and follows democratic principles and is entitled to urge others to do so.
Wilkin ended his response by stating, “This is written in the spirit intended i.e one of respect for rules and for differing opinions”.
The letters written on behalf of the association by Mr. Wilkin followed a string of other correspondences that came from other important organizations in the country, including the Chamber of Industry & Commerce, Christian Council, Evangelical Association and the Hotel & Tourism Association.
There had also been many calls from members of the public for the Bar Association to lend its voice to the issue, so that a legal perspective could be added to the discourse. The association was therefore praised in some quarters for its actions.
Meantime, despite all these calls from the public the government remains adamant that it has other and more important matters to deal with, than to entertain a Vote of No Confidence. At the same time however, it argues that it does not control the agenda of the National Assembly, suggesting that this is the domain of the Speaker. He however, has remained silent on the issue, except for his initial response to the Leader of the opposition months ago.