Mar 16, 2009, 4:55 AM
Twenty-seven lawyers were called to the bar, eight of whom were females and 19 males, and included some foreigners.
The deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Fatou Mbye, at the call to the bar ceremony organised by the Ministry of Justice, read President Jammeh’s speech on his behalf.
He said: “You must serve your nation and people with selfless dedication, honesty, and integrity. You owe it to your people and the country.
“You who have been called to the bar today should see yourself as an integral part of a holistic legal framework designed to bolster peace and security for national development. You must be willing to assist the less fortunate, and to contribute your quota to making this world a better place for all.”
The President added that there could not be any development without peace and security, but peace and security does not fall from the heavens, it has to be created and nurtured through social imperatives like the rule of law and the equitable dispensation of justice.
However, for the rule of law to prevail and for justice to guide our actions toward the common good all, Gambians and non-Gambians everywhere in the country must have access to justice, he went on.
This is a challenge they must surmount together by, among other things, establishing the necessary infrastructure for effective justice delivery, and maintain a critical mass of trained professionals to deliver justice to the doorsteps of every Gambian.
Together they must establish a justice delivery system that is people-centred and reflective of national aspirations and cultural norms and values, President Jammeh continued.
“I hasten to caution you that your achievements today should not be seen as an end in itself. This is not the end of the journey for you; rather, this ceremony marks a rite of passage into the intricate world of legal practitioners. From now on, you will be judged by your actions and attitude towards those who need and seek your professional assistance,” he said.
Their actions and attitude would dictate how society views them, either as good and upright lawyers or as opportunistic and self-serving human beings.
Unfortunately, he added, the legal profession in The Gambia has lately been under the radar due to the undesirable behaviour of some of its members.
However, the public is encouraged by the robust corrective actions being taken and made public by the General Legal Council under its statutory disciplinary powers, he said, adding that “such sanitizing measures have our wholehearted support”.
Mama Fatima Singhateh, the Minister of Justice, said this was the third call to the bar ceremony, and they are proud to be associated with it thanks to the President who has created the enabling environment.
The Faculty of Law of the University of The Gambia attracts students from The Gambia and beyond, including Nigeria and Cameroon among other countries.
The Gambia government has provided the law school with a large amount of money in President Jammeh’s drive to ensure access to justice, the Justice minister said.
Recently, her ministry finalised a five-year strategic plan with support from the UNDP to enable them achieve the mandate of the ministry, she added.
The students reached this stage through the hard work and guidance of their lecturers, she went on, and reminded them that the legal profession is a noble one with ethics, and they have to be honest and fair in executing their work, as well as respect their seniors.
Ms Singhateh said they are calling them to the bar and presenting them to the world to carry out their responsibilities, and let their code of conduct be their purpose.
Justice Minister Singhateh emphasised that professional misconduct is unacceptable, and would not be tolerated as they continue to receive petitions and complaints against lawyers.
She, therefore, thanked all those who contributed to the lives of the graduates.
Sourahata S. Janneh, the guest speaker on the occasion, said a lawyer is a person knowledgeable in law, adding that laws in any given country could not be enforced without a person knowledgeable in law.
He added that in any society, order could not be certain in the absence of a person knowledgeable in law, adding that in this present generation, the Gambians study law in the country and practise it in the country.
He said lawyers are advocates, defenders of human rights, law reformers and role models in the society.
He said the Bar is here to stay, and they have an obligation to support the Bar, both financially and morally.
The collective voice of the lawyers must be heard to condemn the attempt to overthrow the government by violent means, he said.
The Chief Justice delivered the welcome remarks.