I am deeply touched by the kind and generous words from all the speakers this morning. Your
words have a special significance for me given the special connections they symbolise. I am
humbled by your words and touched by the presence of everyone who made the effort to be
here today to celebrate this milestone with me.
I do not think that today is a day for me to speak very much. Many of you have had the
opportunity to hear me speak on a myriad of subjects over the years, ranging from simple story
telling, justice related topics, spirituality and even my attempts at humorous commentaries. I
trust that in the years to come I will have opportunities to continue to engage in discussions on
the many subjects which evoke passionate interests in me. However, today the predominant
feeling and sentiment that I want to express is gratitude. I am so thankful that I am standing
here, able to reflect on a life that has already spanned more than 7 decades among people who
have contributed to it in profound ways.
My first thoughts go to the almighty. I give praise and thanks to God for all the ways in which
he has guided and protected me and allowed me to preserve my health and my belief in the
eternal divine power and in my own humanity. From my early upbringing in the Methodist
Church in Saint Kitts, my faith has profoundly influenced my life and my desire to serve. It
has helped to shape my ideas on concepts of justice and mercy, has provided clarity in the
midst of challenges and given me courage to dispense justice without fear or favour.
Even at my age I still feel grateful to my parents. Their influence on my upbringing and early
education played a critical role in preparing me for service to the region. But then there were also my siblings who are here with me today, and my extended family and the entire social and
educational network in St Kitts where I grew up. It is impossible to underestimate the value of
that experience as I am constantly reminded of it and even now see representatives of that
network including class mates from kindergarten school and the St. Kitts-Nevis Grammar
School, where our school motto gave us our early lessons in integrity “Principia non Homines”
– meaning Principles Not Men.
And then there was my education at Cambridge University
and at the Inns of Court in in England, where that very upbringing allowed me to compete on
an equal footing with the top 5% of the British Student community. From that experience I
took away supreme feelings of self-confidence and assurance that were very empowering. And
as I look out I can see at least one person who was a part of that era of my life, and is still here
for me. For all that I am grateful.
As I reflect on the accolades being showered on me I think back on the early experiences which
developed me. Starting with an unforgettable sojourn as a clerk in the St. Kitts Supreme Court
Registry and the hurly burly of practice at a Bar with and against a group of really outstanding
and learned lawyers in the formative years where I learnt much that was to contribute to my
enthusiastic work in the development of systems for court and case management and the
techniques of advocacy and court room management. My youthful experiences as a judge in
the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, starting right here in Antigua, where I often say
outwardly humorous but with a deeper meaning that my first Registrar – who is still here Mrs
Cecile Hill – taught me how to be a judge. I still recall my first day. I was called to serve quite
suddenly. I had been enjoying my practice at the Bar, and I had not fully adjusted to the idea
of being a judge. I was standing in chambers looking out of the window when the Registrar
came in and asked what was wrong. I tried to say that I could not tell her, but she insisted, Sir
I am not a woman, I am your Registrar you must feel confident in my support. Please tell me
what is wrong. So I blurted out, I am wonder what (ahem) I am doing here. Without batting an
eyelid, she said. Sir in 15 minutes you will walk through that door and start judging. I did.
Over the next several years there were those brilliant legal submissions and argumentations,
and the invaluable interaction with judicial colleagues, even when in disagreement; they were
all important tutorials for me as a judge. That was my real schooling. I am grateful to all those
who played a part in the refinement and honing of my knowledge and skills.
During my life I have had many inspirational and transformative experiences and associations,
too many to mention, but there is one that stands out and it has been my association with the
Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute. The principles of judging and judicial capacity
development that I have learnt and tried to impart around the world have made me a better
person. I thank its founder Sandra Oxner and all the wonderful people from every corner of the
Commonwealth that have contributed to this important aspect of my life. And I am grateful.
My judicial journey which has carried me from the bottom to the top of the Eastern Caribbean
Supreme Court, and not to omit the judiciary of Grenada when it had seceded from the Eastern
Caribbean Supreme Court, and the international Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has been most
remarkable. I must say that the opportunity to serve humanity in that capacity provided
tremendous leaning experiences and spiritual satisfaction. I have seen and heard from some
who have been at every junction along the way and the impact that I may have made. But the
truth is that I am more conscious of the tremendous impact that it and every step of the way has made on me. And I am grateful And here am I now completing a tour of duty at the Caribbean Court of Justice. It has been a
wonderful experience for me. Even with all my experiences of judiciaries around the world,
sitting side by side with judges from every continent on the bench of an International Court, I
am extremely proud to have been part of this outstanding court with judges of the highest
calibre, work ethic and integrity. The culmination of a lifelong dream to be part of a final
Caribbean court has only been eclipsed by the sheer enjoyment of working in an environment
of such high intellect and quality. And in this context I must include the first President of the
court Michael De Labastide and Judge Duke Pollard who demitted office before I joined the
court. The quality of their work lives on and is part of the foundation on which we have been
building. Then there are the two retired judges with whom I had the greatest pleasure in
working along, the first female judge of the court, the distinguished Desiree Bernard the former
chancellor of Guyana and the recently retired Justice Rolston Nelson. I am a witness to
contributions the court and its judges have made to the development of a Caribbean
Jurisprudence and to facilitating regional integration. It has been an honour to serve amongst
some of our region’s finest men and women all of whom take immense pride and diligence in
discharging their duties. And I leave optimistic about the future journey of the CCJ under the
able leadership of my brother, Justice Adrian Saunders who has already distinguished himself
over the last two and half decades with his scholarship, energy and leadership qualities. My
pleasure with the environment at the court goes well beyond my judicial colleagues. A court is
like a chain, as strong as its weakest link!!!
As I have often said judicial management is a team sport. I see here staff from our excellent and high performing court registry, IT and public education departments. But I also see parts of my personal support teams including my learned judicial assistant, my efficient and effective personal and executive assistants and even my
close protector and driver. A key element of our support system, who are not represented today,
are the security officers of the court. I salute them. In addition to the performance of their work,
I cannot resist sliding in the remark that they are the best dressed division of our court and my
daily personal interaction with them has been warm, comforting and encouraging. All these
people, reflective of our staff and I mean the entire staff in all its departments, have provided
committed servicce with affection, dedication and high quality. For all this I am grateful.
Although I had not intended to mention names, I must say a special word of thanks to Mr Bevil
Wooding. He has been a tremendous visionary and resource in the development of Caribbean
technology solutions for improved performance in the administration of justice and a key
element in the realisation of one my dreams through the establishment of APEX the CCJ
agency for court improvement. He has assisted in positioning the Caribbean Court of Justice
as a world leader in court technology. I believe that you all have had an opportunity to witness
this over the last weekend when an important case relating to the impending elections in
Barbados was filed in our court around 5.00 pm on Friday afternoon, and the case was heard
on Sunday at 11.00 am with the bench in Trinidad and the litigants in Barbados. We were able
to conclude the hearing and make dispositive rulings. I doubt that t
retirement is to try and do better at being fully present for you. Yet despite my deficiencies in
this regard I have never felt bereft of your love and I am grateful.
Then there is this event! – how thoughtful and nice it was to do this. I thank the judicial and
registry officials at the CCJ including Ms Jacqui Graham our Registrar who conceived and
implemented this program. Thanks, and more thanks.
Over the past days I have received many touching letters of commendation on my service and
extending good wishes on my retirement. Just this morning I received such a letter from Mr
Jason Martin extending greetings on his behalf and the Caribbean American Chamber of
Commerce and Industry operating from New York. There was a line in which he asked me to
extend congratulations to Justice Saunders on his appointment as the new President of the court
during this morning’s ceremony as I now do. I must add my gratitude for all those letters which
have meant so much to me.
I also want to express my gratitude to Antigua for facilitating this send off for me in the manner
they have done – sophisticated, generous, thoughtful and kind. Antigua holds special
significance for me and my family. It is the place where I first served as a Judge in April 1982
and so things have come full circle here for me today. I have three sons who have grown up in
Antigua and have started families of their own here. As a family, we have become Antiguan
citizens. This country has laid the foundation for what has been a fulfilling and rewarding
judicial career. It has also become another home in the region for myself and my family. For
this, I am eternally grateful.
I must express my gratitude to the Honourable Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira for giving
instructions for the court facilities to be used for this occasion and other courtesies extended.
Special thanks as well to His Excellency, the Governor General, for his support in facilitating
activities to commemorate this milestone; particularly in hosting an Appreciation Dinner in my
honour this evening.
In closing I must say a fundamental word of thanks to that little rock St. Kitts, just 68 square
miles, the larger part of the twin island state of St. Kitts and Nevis with a population of about
60,000 making it the smallest nation in the UN – but exercising the concept of our equality
with an equal voting power with every other state in the world. Imagine how I felt, reminiscing
that as a small boy coming from this little place, I could have reached the pinnacle of success
serving as the President of an International Criminal Tribunal, and having the rank of
undersecretary General of the UN.
I have experienced in my life time the realisation of the
concept of human equality a realisation that still drives my commitment to advocate for the
abolition of appeals from Caribbean Courts to the Privy Council and the utilisation of our own
Caribbean Court of Justice. I still burn with the youthful fire that makes me yearn to deny my
English student colleagues at Cambridge the sense of one-upmanship that despite my qualities
and achievements, my people still feel that they need an English Court to give them justice.
I close by reaching out to the youth of our people in the Caribbean. Do not settle for second
best. The sky is the goal. The only limitations that as a region we have are those imposed by
our own imaginations. Rid ourselves of mental slavery, rise up, stand up for our rights, imagine
that the world would be a better place when we occupy our rightful and equal space.