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Julian Johnson, left, and Dr. Liverpool at the swearing in of the Integrity Commission
Julian Johnson, left, and Dr. Liverpool at the swearing in of the Integrity Commission

Tribute to Dr. Nicholas Joseph Orville Liverpool, D.A.H. O.C.C.,

Former President of the Commonwealth of Dominica

Delivered at the High Court Building, Roseau, Dominica

Thursday 18th June, 2015

By

Julian n. Johnson

May it please your Lordship, Mr Justice Davidson Kelvin Baptiste, Justice of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, My Ladies the Justices of Appeal, Hon Gerthel Tom and Hon Louis Belenman, High Court Judges, Madam Bernie Stephenson and Mr Justice Errol Thomas

In the pilgrim's song Christians are reminded that "man is only a pilgrim on earth." And in that pilgrimage the English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson ("Ulysses") informs that we are a "part of all that we have met."

1966: West India committee cocktails

I first met Dr Nicholas Liverpool in July 1966 at a cocktail reception in the West End of London hosted by the West Indian Committee for a group of us – visiting journalists - from the Eastern Caribbean touring Britain as the guests of the British Government (Central Office of Information, COI).

I was in the company of these austere, venerable, elderly and reserved representatives of the sugar merchants of London and the planters of the Caribbean when across the room I spotted a confident and smart looking black man in his early 30's who greeted me saying "saka fete garcon" and introduced himself as Nicholas Liverpool from Grand bay. He was at that time a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana and was visiting London to attend a workshop organized by the Association of Teachers of Law in Africa. I had neither heard of nor met him before. When I entered the Dominica Grammar School he had long gone. We spent the greater part of the evening in each other's company engaging in discussion on developments in Dominica, and in the village of Grandbay. We again met at UWI Mona Campus, Jamaica in 1968 and developed an incipient friendship. Overtime, we became close friends. He was a trusted confidante.

My Lord, other speakers before me have detailed the achievements of this extraordinary Dominican in the fields of Law and Jurisprudence. Indeed, he was a scholar par excellence! His modest C.V. on the Government of Dominica website contains only 13 pages! But his intellectual versatility extended far beyond these fields of excellence into the world of industry, commerce, public management and agriculture/farming.

In 1990, he spearheaded a study commissioned by the Foundation for International Training of Canada entitled "Proposals for Action by Caribbean Governments in promoting Small Enterprise Development in the [OECS] Region". This helped to broaden governments' industrial policies to focus on domestic initiatives. It was a forward-thinking approach that paved the way for a special regime of small business development in our region.

UWI – USAID/CJIP

It was Dr Liverpool who nicked and developed the ideas and creatively adjusted the elements of what became the UWI – USAID Caribbean Justice Improvement Project (UWI – USAID/CJIP) in support of the administration of justice in the region. Unflappably, he dexterously manoeuvred to defend its major components against erosion by the machinations and parochial attitudes of flinty political leadership with easy access to the power corridors of Washington, at the time!

The administration of Justice in the Eastern Caribbean benefitted tremendously by his efficient management as Project Director of the UWI-USAID Caribbean Justice Improvement Project during the period 1986 – 1992. I was the Chairman of the Committee which implemented the Dominican components of the project, at that time, subject, of course, to the direction and control of Minister Brian Alleyne as he then was.

The Caribbean Justice Improvement Project (CJIP) included:

A new court house for St Kitts;

Magistrate courts/police stations improvement in Dominica and other OECS countries;

The improvement of the Registry and Court House Building in Dominica;

Court Library improvements throughout the OECS;

Funding the publication of The OECS Law Reports (vols. 1-3, edited by Mr Justice Cecil Hewlett, retired Judge) and Cases on Commonwealth Caribbean Bills of Right (vol. 1, edited by Dr Albert Fiadjoe) containing mainly unreported cases with a liberal number of first instance Judgements.

These reports provide "an opportunity to staff and students of the University of the West Indies and the Law Schools to obtain a deeper appreciation of the facts on which some of the decisions of the higher courts were based" [Cecil E. Hewlett, Introduction, The OECS Law Reports vol. 1 (1991), p. vii). And so today through these Law Reports Dominican legal scholars and historians can read the full story and the court's decisions concerning a powerful former Attorney General who had to appear in person and alone because local counsel feared to act for him because of action by "the hostile crowd", at that time. (Leo Austin v The Attorney General et al 1. OECS L.R. 520; Leo Austin v The Attorney General, 2. OECS L.R. 418). The people of the sub-region owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Dr Liverpool for pioneering and administering these projects.

 ####  The village boy from Grandbay – Dominica's "Tom Sawyer"

Nick Liverpool must have had a wonderful, care free, childhood growing up in Grandbay. Dr Albert Fiadjoe and his family, Prof Ralph Carnegie, Dr Patrick Emanuel, Dr Sampson Owusu, Sir Dennis Byron, Eric Amstrong, Dr Francis Alexis, Dr Kenny Anthony, Dr Vaughn Lewis, the late Dr Thomas H. Henderson, Justin Simon, Gene Pestaina, Anthony La Ronde and another Dominican law student - What agricultural experiences do these share in common?

Like Tom Sawyer, in Mark Twain's classical work by that name who made his friends whitewash the picket fence for him, Dr Liverpool cleverly persuaded these distinguished friends and colleagues to have the privilege of harvesting peanuts, pro bono, for him at his farm in Barbados on Saturdays. His sense of humour was productively self-regarding!

In the introductory speech at the swearing in of Dr Liverpool as President of Dominica on 2nd October, 2003 I stated that the villages of Dominica have produced high quality leaders who have served the state in the highest public offices. These include the villages of Vielle Case, Marigot, Loubiere/Pointe Michele and Grandbay; but Grandbay has, so far, out distanced them all. It has produced former Prime Minister Pierre Charles of blessed memory and Dr N. J. O. Liverpool. Grandbay has indeed served Dominica well!

President Liverpool protects constitution from unconstitutional proceedings by house of assembly

In his very first address to the House of Assembly on 29th June, 2004 he stated that while the President does not have the power to impinge on the functions laid out for others to perform, it is "his duty to ensure that these functions are carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution". And again in his address on 27th July, 2005 he reminded the House of Assembly that when a Bill is submitted to the President for his assent in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, he must signify his assent. He emphasised however, that "it is very important, therefore, to bear in mind the operative words in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, because it is incumbent on all members of this Honourable House to ensure that Bills that are passed by this House for presentation to the President, are in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution."

When therefore the House of Assembly of Dominica failed to do so and purported to pass a Bill concerning the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice without observing the prescribed constitutional requirements he refused his assent, thus avoiding litigation and great costs to the Commonwealth of Dominica.

His brilliant and successful career has not been without its trials; but his personal dignity has always risen far above those, bridled with envy, who, to their own disgrace, tried to slander him and his Presidency.

Condolences

My Lord, I share Verna's, Nicole's, Bertha's and their families and his brother Avan and other family members the enormous sense of loss at his passing. I express deepest condolences on my personal behalf and on behalf of my family and on behalf of our close friends – especially Alick Lazare and his family and Justice Dame Monica Joseph, Chairperson of the Integrity Commission of Grenada. May he find eternal life!

JULIAN N. JOHNSON 18TH June, 2015


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