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Nine senior and junior lawyers have formed a committee to "speak out more often on matters of public interest", said Cara Shillingford who spoke at the committee's inauguration ceremony last week.

"We are concerned about the high levels of dysfunction within the various arms of government," said Shillingford, a founding member of the Committee of Concerned Lawyers (CCL). "Many statutory boards, commissions and institutions which are supposed to serve and protect have been rendered ineffective and toothless because of legislative hinges and political interference".

Shillingford said these boards and commissions "are crowded with party supporters and yes-men who are more concerned about not rocking the boat rather than protecting the public interest."

She added: "It is impossible to ignore those social ills and logically expect them to just disappear. If you have a wound and want it to heal, then you should not cover it up. This organization seeks to expose and address the various problems that we face in Dominica head-on so that can find solutions and heal this country.

"We do not promise to do all of this in one day. As the old saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. We will however try our utmost best to fulfill our vision and mandate."

Among the founding members of the CCL are: John Elue Charles, Cara Shillingford, Wayne Marsh, Joshua Francis, Singoalla Blomqvist-Williams, Bernard Wiltshire, Ronald Charles, Clement Joseph, and Joel Paris. Charles said that the CCL was "not a religious organization, not political and not affiliated to any political party, not another branch of the Dominica Bar Association and is not affiliated to the pressure group Concerned Citizens Movement".

In a statement emailed to the press ahead of the inauguration, the CCL said: "Our problems here in Dominica are made worse by the fact that we are so small and vulnerable not only to external shocks such as natural disasters, but to internal policies and conduct which threaten community solidarity and weaken our capacity to withstand these pressures. We are in a situation that requires all hands to be on deck and as lawyers we believe that we have a responsibility to do what we can, each according to his own capacity, to help protect the freedoms and rights that have been won for us through sacrifices and struggles of those who have gone before us".

Among the CCL's 16 goals are to: maintain the honour of the legal profession and, more specifically, to promote the honour and dignity of the members of the Committee of Concerned Lawyers; eliminate bias in the legal profession and the justice system and in particular to promote the development of a culture of equality before the law; promote the fair and effective administration of justice; increase public understanding of and respect for the rule of law, the legal process, and the role of the legal profession in Dominica; hold our public authorities accountable under law; preserve the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary.


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