CLA News / Summer Sojourn 2023 by CLA Honorary Life President Santhaan Krishnan
CLA Honorary Life President Santhaan Krishnan reflects on a busy 2 months of Commonwealth travel
As I planned my travels for the Summer Recess of the Supreme Court of India during May/June 2023, London was an automatic choice as a place which I have visited regularly for over 18 years.
I was sitting and recollecting how it all began. Nostalgic memories took me back to 2005 when, for the first time I organised a delegation of lawyers from India to England. About 35 lawyers from India interacted with the Law Society and the Bar Council of England & Wales and also played cricket. We presented them with a set of books, “Framing of India’s Constitution by Shiva Rao.”
Multiple visits during that year lead to my participation at the London Commonwealth Law Conference (CLC) in September 2005. Interestingly, that coincided with the Ashes victory for England against Australia. I was part of the victory celebrations in Trafalgar Square.
Since then, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) has grown in size and reach across the Commonwealth. It has become a broad based organisation where every Commonwealth jurisdiction has a seat on Council.
Of late, CLA has set up action-oriented committees to discuss and deliberate on various issues and have specialised lawyers from outside the Council on board. Thus paving the way for increased engagement between Commonwealth Law Conferences.
During my visit this summer on 30th May, we had a good meeting at the Commonwealth Secretariat in Marlborough House. CLA President Peter Maynard KC and Secretary General The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC were seated on the Head Sofa. On her left were the Officers and Heads of various Departments, and on the right, along with Mark Stephens CBE , John Almeida and I were there. The Secretary General introduced every officer and their subjects of governance. The following interaction was about the areas where they sought assistance and collaboration from CLA. Nostalgic memories took me back again to the year around 2010 when I first visited Marlborough House, resulting in the then Secretary General gracing the 2011 Hyderabad Commonwealth Law Conference as a Keynote Speaker.
Over the years, I have always believed that the CLA and the Commonwealth Secretariat should interact on matters relating to law. And in our May meeting, I saw how a proactive CLA could bring those thoughts to fruition.
I took that opportunity to tell the Secretary General that we missed her at International Women’s Day on 8th March this year at CLC23 Goa where she had left after her keynote speech due to other commitments. I invited the Secretary General to Delhi on 8th March 2024 for International Women’s Day, and on the next day the 9th of March to deliver the 3rd Soli Sorabjee Memorial Lecture.
Taking advantage of my stay in London, I met with many members of the CLA family – David Greene, Colin Nicholls, Mark Stephens, John Almeida, Mickael Laurans, John McKendrick KC, and of course, Brigid Watson and Clare Roe.
I am a co-convener, with Rene M Baptiste CMG, of CLA’s Committee on ADR. During our deliberation in the ADR committee, we took a call to promote the Singapore Convention.
Acting on this decision and coupled with the purpose of raising CLA’s profile and towards increased membership engagement, President Peter and I had the opportunity of meeting some of the authorities concerned in some of the jurisdictions across the Commonwealth in the following way.
At the invitation of Salieu Taal, our Council Member and President of the Gambia Bar Association, we attended the ECOWAS (Economic Community of the West African States) Conference in Banjul hosted by the ECOWAS Court, consisting of about 15 countries (out of which 5 were Commonwealth countries) in West Africa. We had a brief chat with the Chief Registrar of the ECOWAS Court.
Importantly we met the Chief Justice of Gambia, Justice Hassan Jallow, the Solicitor General, and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dawda Jallow.
Trinidad and Tobago
We visited Trinidad and Guyana in the Caribbean during the last week of June. We met the President of the Law Association of Trinidad & Tobago, Lynette Seebaran-Suite KC, who hosted a reception for us. That was an opportunity to meet the other office bearers of LATT and their Council Members.
We met Chief Justice Ivor Archie, and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Reginald Armour. Similarly, we met the Justices of the Courts of Appeal, Justice Gillian Lucky and Mr Justice Vasheist Kokaram. We also met Mr Justice Geoffrey Henderson, who was formerly with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In the last leg, we went to Guyana, where we met the Acting Chief Justice, Madame Justice Roxane George SC, and also the Minister for Youth Affairs Mr Charles Ramson, a Lawyer. Our Council Member Teni Housty joined us for a visit to the Courts of Law to meet the Chief Justice and a few others, including the Bar leaders.
At Sanjeev Datadin’s (from the Legal Fraternity in Guyana) initiative a dinner was hosted where a few others from the Bar and the Minister joined us for a good interaction. Lastly, I cannot miss mentioning our meeting with this year’s Rule of Law Award winner Melinda Janki for an increased involvement with CLA. Utilising the occasion, we talked to the co-convenor of the CLA Climate Justice Committee, Fiona Ey on a WhatsApp call regarding our initiatives on Climate Change.
President Peter explained to all those we met, about CLA, its projects and aspirations and the important role the organisation plays across the Commonwealth in upholding the Rule of Law and how each jurisdiction could play a role by being part of CLA’s journey.
We gave letters to these authorities and the Presidents/Office Bearers of the Bar, explaining the importance of the Singapore Convention and how their country would benefit by signing and ratifying the UN resolution that was formally brought out in Singapore in August 2019. Along with the letters, we annexed the document of the UN resolution for them to pursue and take appropriate steps in the direction set out in the letters.
Zambia, Botswana and South Africa
Without stopping, we embarked on new journeys to Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa from the beginning of July on the mission CLA Connect.
The focus of this visit was to attend the 23rd Annual Conference of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) at Livingstone in Zambia. As this conference attracted delegates from across the 54 African countries and we met a number of Bar Leaders, representatives of governments, etc. We connected with our Vice-President Linda Kasonde, along with our Council Members Pheona Wall and Tengo Rubadiri. Courtesy of Linda, we had a good meeting with the President of the Law Association of Zambia and other office bearers, together with the Attorney General for Zambia. We met Vimbai Niyemba, our erstwhile Council Member from Zimbabwe and currently the President of SADCLA.
President Peter and I had the opportunity to address the delegates on “Notable developments in arbitration and on mediation”. We appealed through the platform of the Conference and through PALU to all the African Countries to consider signing and ratifying the Singapore Convention.
Informally we met the President of PALU, Abdoul Kari, and CEO Donald Deya. They assured follow-up meetings with various jurisdictions.
Courtesy of Tengo Rubadiri we visited Botswana and met the Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Botswana, Lillian Muzimo, and her colleagues. And with her, we met the Chief Registrar and the Chief Justice of Botswana Hon. Justice Terence Rannowane. A good interaction and an opportunity for President Peter to talk about CLA and invite all of them to CLC Malta.
Finally, the African sojourn took us to Johannesburg in South Africa. Unfortunately, the visa on arrival facility was not available to me but Peter had a productive meeting with the President of the Law Society of South Africa, Eunice Masipa, and Tony Pillay the CEO who organised this meeting.
One alarming observation during my return journey from Kasane to Gaborone, Johannesburg to Doha, and ultimately to Delhi, was the increasing weather extremes. Whilst it was freezing with a cold breeze and snow in Johannesburg, hot air blew across Doha in the middle of the night and I arrived to the the unusual devastating rains in Delhi. All occurring at the same time and sounding an alarm bell for action. This needs proactive steps from the increasingly interdependent world.
The meetings and interactions during May, June, and the beginning of July through these visits to West Africa, London, the Caribbean, and Southern Africa were useful to raise the profile of CLA, in drawing the attention of the legal fraternity to the activities of CLA and also to CLC25 Malta. And at the same, we worked to raise awareness towards the Singapore Convention on Mediation.
CLA Honorary Life President