Thursday, February 07, 2019

Hon. Members of the General Legal Council

Hon. Speaker of the National Assembly and Guest Speaker of the day

Hon. Judges of the Superior Courts

Your Worships Magistrates and Cadis

Hon. Attorney General and Minister of Justice

Hon. Ministers

Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Director General of the Gambia Law School

President and Members of the Bar

Graduates of the 7th Class of the Gambia Law School

Director General of the Law School

Venerable Religious Leaders

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am pleased to welcome you all on behalf of the General Legal Council to this 7th Call to the Bar Ceremony in respect of the 58 students who have successfully completed the vocational state of their studies at the Gambia Law School. 

A special welcome is extended to our Guest Speaker Madame Mariama Jack Denton, the Speaker of the National Assembly.  A better choice could not have been made for the occasion.  I have had the privilege of knowing and working with her since the 1970’s when we both served as Counsel in the Attorney General’s Chambers.  Her commitment to and passion for justice has remained undiminished since then; her quest for justice for all has only increased.  Today as the Speaker of the National Assembly we are fortunate to have her presiding over the second organ of the state where national policies are shaped with a view to improving governance and enhancing progress in our community.

I congratulate you the graduates on attaining this significant landmark in your quest to become legal practitioners.  My congratulations go to your parents and sponsors who have made financial sacrifices to see you through this crucial stage of your studies.  To the faculty and staff of the Law School too congratulations and appreciation are due for their unflinching efforts to impart to you the knowledge of the law and the practical skills required to operate as members of the learned and honourable profession.  We are particularly appreciative of the diligence and dedication of Hon. Justice Amina Saho-Ceesay who as Supervisor of the school following the elevation of her predecessor Hon. Justice Raymond Sock to the Supreme Court, took on in addition to her onerous duties as a judge of the High Court the arduous task of managing the school – very successfully if I may so – until the recent appointment of Mrs. Rougie Thomasi as the new Director General of the School.  On behalf of the General Legal Council we thank Justice Saho-Ceesay and also congratulate and wish a successful tenure to Mme Rougie Thomasi.

The Gambia Law School since its establishment has, as they say been growing strong.  Today’s graduation brings to 275 the total number of students who have successfully completed their vocational studies at this institution.  The school has continued to attract foreign students with several from Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa who have been admitted and undergone training here.  Many of the graduates of the school have acquitted themselves very well in the practice of the law.  With that, international recognition and the good reputation of the school has been growing.  The General Legal Council, the successive Directors General of the school, the Faculty and of course the students deserve to be and have our strongest commendation.  The school administration and faculty must continue to ensure that the graduates of the school meet the highest standards expected of the members of the profession they desire to join.

Dear graduates with the award of your qualifying certificates from the Law School and your call to the Gambian Bar today you are poised for a career at the Bar, in law.  I say poised advisedly for there is yet another stage to go through i.e. y our pupilage before enrollment if you are found in all respects to be a fit and proper person to engage in the profession of a legal practitioner.  You must always remember that condition, that requirement for enrollment at the Bar; it is also a requirement for remaining at the Bar.  It is not sufficient to simply possess the academic and vocational qualifications; you must be a fit and proper person for the profession.  You must have the requisite good character and conduct and comportment that is becoming of a legal practitioner for you to become and to remain one. The membership of the legal profession is not for the dishonest the incompetent   or for the lazy.  Or for the discourteous.  It has room for only the honest, the truthful, the hardworking and for those whose hearts are filled with a passion for justice. The Bar you hope to join eventually is an old one, perhaps the oldest professional association in this country.  The first and oldest entry in the Roll of Legal Practitioners in the Gambia is the enrollment of one Henry Michaux on the 2nd of January 1873.  Thus January 2019 was at least the 146th Anniversary of the Bar in the Gambia.  It is an honourable profession too with its members distinguishing themselves in their professional integrity and dedication to the cause of justice and the public good. You should be proud to be a member of such an old and honuorable Bar and should be fully committed to continuing its traditions, its values its reputation; and of course your reputation.

Hard work – upgrading your knowledge of the law, improving your professional skills with the guidance of experienced senior counsel and working long and late hours all lie ahead of you, if you desire to be not only successful but eminent members of the legal profession. Do not think for one moment that you have concluded your learning and studies. A life time of continuous study lies ahead of you. Even as judicial officers we recognize the limitations of human knowledge; hence the Training Unit of the Judiciary has in partnership with other agencies been very active in delivering a programme of continuous education for judges, magistrates’, cadis, and other staff of the judiciary. I am pleased to learn that the Bar will soon institute a similar programme for its members to enable them keep abreast of development in the law and in the practice of the law. That can only bring added value to the administration of justice. Hard work and honourable practice have their rewards. For your personal success and that of your family, but also for your community.  With probono work for the poor, the disadvantaged and the indigent. The knowledge and skills you acquire from your education and training give you flexibility- perhaps more than many other profession, to assist your community in a variety of ways – as a lawyer, as an administrator, policy adviser and policy maker in the public service, in the private sector, in business, as a politician – in the service of your community. The opportunities are vast. So l wish you all the best in your choice of the law; and in any other field you choose to apply your skills positively and productively.

I thank you all for your attention.