Will Rotarians now expect different treatment in Barbados Courts?

Chief Justice accepts Rotary honours – cautioned he is now a Rotary Ambassador and obligated to Rotary’s ideals, principles

Where does judicial independence really begin and end? Where does the public perception of judicial independence begin and end? Where should the lines be drawn?

Many people will see no problem with our Chief Justice being an “honorary” member of the Rotary Club, and being feted by an organization that does so much good in the community.

“Honorary membership in Rotary is a privilege, which carries with it many obligations and we believe that you will recognise these and welcome them as opportunities for service,” said Rotary President Irving Burrowes as he addressed Gibson during “a glitzy affair at the Accra Beach Hotel.”

“The community will know and judge Rotary by your actions and ideals. You will become an ambassador for Rotary and you will carry these ideals and the principles of Rotary service to those who know you or with whom you are associated.”

… from the Barbados Advocate article Chief Justice becomes an honorary Rotarian

Others see Rotary a little differently than as just a community service club because the “by invitation only” membership of Rotary Clubs everywhere is naturally stacked with many business, financial and political elites. The Barbados Rotary Club was, of course, founded at Sandy Lane. I’ve never been invited to Sandy Lane… how about you?

After years of having David Simmons, a seasoned politician with a politician’s conflicts of interest, as their Chief Justice, Bajans welcomed Marston Gibson as someone who could restore the separation of powers. Never again did Bajans want to face a Chief Justice knowing that they might as well be standing before the Prime Minister or the political party in power.

That’s what happens when a long time politician like David Simmons is Attorney General and Deputy Prime Minister and part of the Senior Cabinet of the government in power – and then almost overnight becomes the highest judge in the country. Simmons was in charge of the court system where citizens sought justice against his own BLP government! People lose confidence in the courts when their opponents in court just had dinner with the judge.

And yet, there has to be a balance. Mr. Gibson is human. He is Bajan. He has friends and family and is himself part of the larger community. I suppose that if one of his friends or family appeared in court Mr. Gibson would have the integrity to excuse himself from judging or managing the case.

But what about Rotary members? Will Chief Justice Gibson now have to excuse himself from judging or administrating any case involving a fellow Rotarian?

Our Courts and Judges must be SEEN to be totally independent of outside influence

Our court system and judges must not only be independent, they must be seen as independent by the public and by those who stand in front of them. By accepting the public honours and membership with an organization so stacked with business, financial and political elites, Chief Justice Gibson just lost a little bit of his perceived independence. He also lowered the perceived independence of our courts, if only by a small amount.

Something for the Chief Justice to contemplate the next time he receives an invitation from another group of influential Bajan business and political elites who would love to count the Chief Justice as one of their number.

Further Reading

We encourage our readers to visit the website of the Barbados Advocate to read Chief Justice becomes an honorary Rotarian, but we have to reprint the entire article here because the Bajan news media has a habit of deleting news articles and history for political agendas…

Chief Justice becomes an honorary Rotarian

On the 26th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Barbados South, its members, along with supporting members of sister Rotary clubs, had much to celebrate as they welcomed a Barbadian legal luminary into the fold of the organisation on Friday night.

During a glitzy affair at the Accra Beach Hotel, Chief Justice of Barbados, Marston Gibson, was formally inducted into the Rotary Club of Barbados South as an honorary member to thunderous applause.

President, Irving Burrowes, explained that it has been custom in Rotary for persons who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their respective vocations to be invited for membership and that the club “is extremely pleased” to have had the opportunity to continue the tradition as former Chief Justice Sir Denys Williams remains an honorary member having been inducted since 1987.

“The community will know and judge Rotary by your actions and ideals. You will become an ambassador for Rotary and you will carry these ideals and the principles of Rotary service to those who know you or with whom you are associated.

“Honorary membership in Rotary is a privilege, which carries with it many obligations and we believe that you will recognise these and welcome them as opportunities for service,” said Burrowes as he addressed Gibson
during the ceremony.

The Chief Justice, who is a Rhodes scholar and was most recently a court attorney-referee of the State of New York before taking up his current local post last September, thanked the club for its invitation but reserved the subject of his reply to call on the youth to answer the call of service.

He shared that he was the secretary of the Lions Club of Barbados Central several years ago and as such was the co-ordinator of the Leo Club and thus presided over the club’s charter nights.

“What impacted on me tonight was meeting the president of the Rotaract club [Rotary young adult arm]. One of the things that I had noticed in New York, likewise here, is that we are losing our young people. Somewhere along the line we are not being able to convince them that service is rewarding.”

He added that he has always been convinced that when one helps other persons, one is doing service to God and reminded the youth that there are always persons less privileged than themselves and thus they have a moral obligation to help wherever they can.

Meanwhile, Past President Dr. Latchman Kissoon gave a lengthy history of the club in his feature address, noting the steady growth of membership since its official birth on January 13, 1986 at the Sandy Lane hotel. He also revealed a little about the origins of Rotary worldwide, which began with 3 men in Chicago in 1905, who wanted to make a difference to their society through the utilisation of their different skills. (EL)

14 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, Ethics, Politics

14 responses to “Will Rotarians now expect different treatment in Barbados Courts?

  1. Angela Ifill

    Was I suppose to read all of this?

  2. Graydon F.

    BFP I see exactly where you are coming from. We don’t pay attention to these issues in Barbados and we get raped as a result. We are a (relatively) tiny nation of three hundred thousand people. That’s nothing in the grand scheme. We’re hardly a city in the UK or USA. It is not as if there is another court and another judge waiting in the wings when there is a conflict of interest. Our judges should do everything they can to eliminate (as you say) ‘perceived” conflicts of interest. They get new BMW limos, drivers/bodyguards. The trade-off is they cannot be members of a political party. They cannot be members of groups and fraternities. Some do but that weakens the integrity or the ‘perceived’ integrity of the system.

    You were correct in calling this out BFP. We cannot become a true first world nation, we cannot progress, and still keep banana (or sugar) republic standards.

  3. robert ross

    No, sorry, this won’t do. You might as well ask the man to live in a sealed bunker ‘Underground’. At least you know who he is and what he has done and how, therefore, he may become accountable. How does becoming an Honorary Rotarian equate to pandering to “public perception”, rooted as it may be in ignorance, bigotry and superstition? Now, if the news had been leaked that he had become a freemason then, yes, you might have had a story.
    Much more interesting to know what steps the Chief Justice is taking to retrench the delays in the court system.
    On Sir David Simmons: yes, I understand the difficulty arising from an appointment from the executive arm of government, again a matter of perception; BUT is there actually any evidence, firm evidence not just conjecture, that Sir David remained a political hack after his appointment? Of what I have seen of his judgments, he was a man of the highest judicial quality – anywhere.

  4. Graydon F.

    Here you go Robert Ross asking for ‘evidence’ that Simmons did wrong. It is your standard that is wrong. We shouldn’t have to doubt or ask for evidence of wrongdoing. Simmons shouldn’t have accepted the appointment, but it was probably all planned out before he resigned as MP! He knew he would be appointed as Chief Justice when he resigned. This gave the BLP and Owen Arthur influence over the entire court system. Your perspective is so screwed if you can’t see that. Call it “island standards blindness”. I’m not shooting the messenger, I’m exasperated at the naivety of one of my countrymen.

  5. Graydon F.

    How about if Chief Justice Gibson joins the BLP or DLP or PEP and becomes a card-carrying member. Is that alright?

  6. robert ross

    Graydon…you make my case for me.

  7. Jordaine Byam

    On an improttant point of clarification, meetings of the Rotary Club of Barbados, started at the Marine Hotel in 1961. Over its 50 year history, the club has held meetings at the Marine Hotel, Caribbee Hotel, the old Barbados Hilton in the 1970”s and now the renovated Hilton. The statement that “The Barbados Rotary Club was, of course, founded at Sandy Lane, is therefore the product of a mischievous mind making false bricks of fact without regard for the truth. Please do not misrepresent the history of the Rotary Club of Barbados.

  8. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    Is this all to the Rotary Club? I really do not know what importance is attached to rotary club except what BFP is telling. So is the rotary club good or bad? It is obvious an elitist club and from all intent and purposes the elitist in Barbados, well most not all, , are persons who practice a separatist and restrictive mind set. They are the ones whom the law protects. So the new CJ entering this club can be easily misconstrued as creating a conflict of interest for himself. Hmmmmmm. I hope that I do not have to say: the more things change the more they remain the same….Time will tell tho tho

  9. living in a perfect bubble

    While the question is a fair one to debate or raise, the Rotarians have done much good over the past number of decades and I doubt very much if an honorary title would have much influence over a judge who must judge all
    those before him or her, impartially.

    The alternative is to live in a bubble and talk to no one. Barbados is far too small for that model of total neutrality and independence. One would hope with some american influence, the new CJ could and would not be influenced by such a gesture.

  10. BFP

    Hi Jordaine Byam,

    The information that the Rotary Club was founded at Sandy Lane was not mischief: the information came from Past President Dr. Latchman Kissoon as quoted in the Barbados Advocate:

    Meanwhile, Past President Dr. Latchman Kissoon gave a lengthy history of the club in his feature address, noting the steady growth of membership since its official birth on January 13, 1986 at the Sandy Lane hotel. He also revealed a little about the origins of Rotary worldwide, which began with 3 men in Chicago in 1905, who wanted to make a difference to their society through the utilisation of their different skills.

  11. Beefcake

    There are 3 Rotary Clubs in Barbados. That particular one (Barbados South) would have been started at Sandy Lane.

  12. Newbie

    A club is a club, I would not expect him to refuse membership of, say a golf club, simply because he is the Chief Justice.

    What I would expect is that he would encourage a system that permits him to excuse himself from any case should there be even the slightest inkling of a conflict of interest. I would expect him to judge every case put before him on the evidence offered. I also expect him to suggest reforms to our system so that it allows access to Justice for the less wealthy in our society.

    @ Robert Ross

    Not saying that the new Chief Justice is in any way bias but your view that the “public perception” is ” rooted as it may be in ignorance, bigotry and superstition? is flawed. Barbados is small enough for you to know that there IS bias from the higher authorities when it comes to certain issues and certain personalities. The “public perception” is therefore rooted “as it may be” in REALITY.

  13. Latchman

    THIS IS THE BEAUTY OF FREE PRESS IN A FREE COUNTRY NO ROTARIAN IS EXPECTED TO APPEAR BEFORE THE CHIEF EXCEPT THE LAWYERS ROTARY IS ALL ABOUT SERVICE

  14. robert ross

    Newbie…the point is both a logical one and experiential..as you acknowledge: “as it may be” is exactly the point. The earth was once flat wasn’t it? But if you want the logical sense of what I was saying in action, see my remarks above about David Simmons and cf BFP and Graydon. I was rather expecting some follow-up on that. Ditto my reference to freemasonry. Mind the headline was ‘Will Rotarians Expect Different Treatment?’ But the substance was about danger of bias in the CJ. The two don’t mesh and who cares what Rotarians expect even if the caption is right? On the subject of elites and bias and, yes, why not brainwashing, who runs BFP?