I join the region in mourning the loss of a Caribbean icon and international legal luminary in the person of the late Sir Fenton Ramsahoye QC. Sir Fenton, 89, was cremated yesterday at the Chapel of Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens in Barbados.
His unparalleled contribution to the development of the law and politics of the Caribbean has made an indelible impact that helped shape our notion of justice and fundamental human rights.
His PhD thesis was published as a book and even today remains the most authoritative text on land law in Guyana. The law reports are littered with his cases in all spheres of the law and his erudition and legal genius is reflected in the over 300 cases in the international law reports.
The UNC owes Sir Fenton a great debt of gratitude as he often provided legal counsel and representation during our political struggles. Sir Fenton teamed up with former AG Anand Ramlogan S.C. to challenge the PNM’s victimization and discrimination in the highest courts.
Indeed, it was Sir Fenton who led the charge against the PNM administration during the 18-18 tie when it appointed all PNM MPs as government ministers so that they were paid a salary whilst it refused to pay the 18 UNC elected members of parliament. Although Sir Fenton lost this important constitutional case in both lower courts, he was successful in the Privy Council which delivered a historic ruling in favour of the UNC MPs as a result of which the Government was ordered to pay the UNC MPs their salaries with retroactive effect.
His pioneering work on behalf of the UNC led to greater accountability and transparency in governance as evidenced by his numerous victories on behalf of Chandresh Sharma against the Government for failing to publish annual statements under the Freedom of Information Act and against the Integrity Commission for the failure to disclose the names of persons who had not filed their declarations. He also represented us in the Gypsy and Chaitan election matters on dual citizenship and challenged the unlawful exercise of the Prime Ministerial veto in the wake of the infamous trafficking of liquid cocaine via our diplomatic pouches when the PNM attempted to block public officer Feroza Ramjohn from assuming duties at the London High Commission.
Sir Fenton was widely regarded as the grandfather of West Indian constitutional law. His intellectual prowess and legal scholarship made him one of the most respected and sought-after legal luminaries from the Caribbean who successfully tested his mettle against the leading members of the British Bar in his numerous duels in the Privy Council. He made us proud and stood beside us in our darkest moments.
We salute Sir Fenton and record our appreciation for his unwavering commitment to democracy and the rule of law. The region has lost a legal titan and the UNC, a trusted friend and lieutenant.
May his soul rest in peace.