The specialist legal expertise of Barbadian jurists is in heavy demand across the Caribbean, particularly for commissions of enquiry.
Governments from as far north as Turks & Caicos and Jamaica, to Trinidad and Tobago in the south and Antigua and Barbuda in the eastern Caribbean have been clamouring for Barbadian legal minds to head their enquiries or play other critical roles.
Amidst calls for this country to develop a knowledge industry and export it, appears to be gaining ground, at least with respect to commissions of enquiry specialists.
For years now, two of this island’s most outstanding legal luminaries have been flying the Barbados flag, as their much-sought-after skills, knowledge and experience, have seemingly reached new heights.
Retired Chief Justice and former Attorney General Sir David Simmons is one of those who is being called on to travel extensively around the region and get involved in various enquiries and other judicial bodies on behalf of the respective governments.
Sir David, who started back in 2008 when he was hired by the Cayman Islands Government and the British Government to investigate the conduct of a judge of the grand court in Grand Cayman, was only just appointed to chair the Dudus Coke Commission of Enquiry in Jamaica.
Sir David, who along with retired Jamaica Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Hazel Harris and former Puisne Judge of the Organisation
of Eastern Caribbean States, Velma Hylton, will investigate the 2010 incursion in West Kingston, when 70 people were killed during the police-military operation to capture then fugitive, Christopher “Dudus” Coke.
This Barbadian Queen’s Counsel also chaired the commission of enquiry that probed the 1990 attempted coup in Trinidad and Tobago.
The investigation, which started in January 2011, was significant for Barbados, in that the deputy head – Sir Richard Cheltenham – was also the other local legal specialist in the work of commissions.
After three years of off-and-on enquiries, the final report is to be handed over to the President of Trinidad and Tobago late next week.
Sir David was also hired by the hemispheric football organisation CONCACAF, to head of an integrity committee of enquiry last year to look into allegations of financial mismanagement by former president of the soccer federation, Jack Warner.
CONCACAF’s former leaders Warner and Chuck Blazer were slammed by Sir David in the final report as “fraudulent in their management” of the soccer confederation’s affairs.
The Barbadian jurist was also just reappointed as chairman of the Integrity Committee in the Turks & Caicos Islands for another three years.
That committee investigates the assets and liabilities of public officers and probe corruption in all its forms.
He is also the chair of the Judicial Services Commission in Turks & Caicos and Cayman, the body that appoints court staff.
His colleague, Sir Richard Cheltenham has been in demand for a much longer period, dating back to around 1991 in Antigua and Barbuda.
At that time, Sir Richard represented Vere Bird Jr – the brother of the former prime minister Lester Bird – before a commission of enquiry that probed allegations that Bird Jr and the then head of the military, were involved in importing arms from Israel to Antigua for transshipment to the Medellin Cartel in Colombia.
“I was [also] counsel to a commission in St Kitts; the enquiry related to the disappearance of three hydrofoil vessels that were bought from Italy for movement of passengers between Nevis, St Kitts and further afield in the Caribbean Sea,” recalled Sir Richard.
“I was counsel to the commissioner Sir Louis Blom-Cooper,” he added.
He recalled, too, that he was the one-man commissioner in Grenada, where the Prime Minister was accused of receiving large sums of money in a Louis Vuitton suitcase.
Sir Richard also served as counsel to commissioner Sir Allistair McIntyre in Antigua, to investigate serious allegations of corruption in the island’s Medical Benefits Scheme.
He recently received his instrument to head a commission of enquiry into the murder of Guyanese social and political activist and academic, Walter Rodney, who was killed on June 13,1980 in Georgetown, Guyana. That enquiry is scheduled to begin the first working day after Easter.
Sir Richard noted that there has been a great clamouring for a commission of enquiry into Rodney’s death, amidst a variety of theories and speculations as to how he died.
These are among the eight enquires in which this Barbadian Queen’s Counsel has so far been involved as governments and other individuals seek out the expertise of local legal specialists.