St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association has responded to Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris' verbal attack on the local legal fraternity, calling his comments regrettable and uninformed.
Following a recent commentary by former Bar Association president Charles Wilkin QC stating that engagement by a Minister in business is a breach of duty and misfeasance in public office, Prime Minister Harris took aim at the Bar Association during public forums saying that "the Bar Association has yet to come to the public with its approach to discipline and self regulation, when poor people have been taken advantage of and yet they want to be the first to talk about good governance. They are not serious about good governance; good governance like charity must start in their home and in their association."
On Friday the Bar association issued a statement on the matter saying "It is regrettable that the Honorable Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis saw it fit to make uninformed statements concerning the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association in a public forum and it has become necessary to respond to those unfortunate comments to ensure that the public is accurately informed.
"To say that the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association does not regulate itself or its members is completely inaccurate."
The legal association's release went on to say that the Legal Profession Act was enacted in 2011 and the new Council of the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association headed by Charles Wilkin QC immediately proceeded to take steps to set up a Disciplinary Committee as provided for in the Act.
In February 2012 eight persons were appointed to the Disciplinary Committee by the Honorable Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, and the Disciplinary Committee is open to members of the public who feel that an act of professional misconduct has been committed by an Attorney-at-Law to submit a complaint in accordance with the provisions of the Act to the Secretary of the Disciplinary Committee at the Registrar's office in Basseterre, St. Kitts or at the High Court Registry in Nevis.
The Association said the Disciplinary Committee meets regularly to consider complaints filed by members of the public. To date, 25 matters have been brought before the Committee, most of which have been already dealt with. The Committee is not empowered to suspend or disbar a practitioner however pursuant to the Act, the Association has recently called on the Honorable Attorney General to initiate such action against a practitioner and await his action on the matter.
The Association said it is unfortunate that the comments of one member of the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association in his personal capacity calling on the government of St. Kitts and Nevis to activate or enact good governance legislation has led to an unwarranted full frontal attack on Association by the person holding the highest executive office in the Federation.
It said, "The St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association does not and will not engage in partisan party politics. While we fully understand the nature of politics, and that comments are made in a political forum to have a particular impact on the electorate, or a particular segment of the electorate, we feel duty-bound to respond to the comments of the Honorable Prime Minister in the interest of educating the public, a mandate of the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association that we take seriously. We support the proper exercise by any member of our Association, and in fact, any member of the public, of the fundamental right of free speech."