Bermuda is currently hosting the 21st Annual Conference of the Overseas Territories Attorneys Generals which concludes on September 27.
The conference formally opened this morning [Sept 25] and attendees were addressed by the Premier Paula Cox and Attorney General Kim Wilson. Attending the conference is the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Attorney General, England and Wales as well as 13 Attorney Generals representing Overseas Territories.
Minister Wilson, Governor George Fergusson and the visiting Attorneys Generals:
Minister Wilson said: “I believe as Attorney Generals – and as the lead legal advisors who help shape the policy of our jurisdictions – we all have a pivotal role to play not just on our domestic scene, but in the global arena as well.
“Collaborations on such matters as trade, commerce and law enforcement, particularly as it relates to the protection of our borders are all areas which I believe require not only our partnership, but our leadership.”
The Premier’s full speech follows below:
Thank you for choosing Bermuda as your meeting venue.
We welcome visitors and clearly those who assist the Government to tip the balance in favour of a more just society are even more warmly welcomed.
It may not be easy to define what justice is, but we know it- or the lack of it- when we see it.
Justice is about people getting their due. A proper balance between what a person gets and what they ought to get.
Both the good governance of a country and its stability depend on the presence of justice of this kind.
As Ministers we swear an oath of allegiance to carry out our duties and responsibilities without fear or favour.
Justice personified is blindfolded- even-handed and blind to differences, such as the colour of skin or place of their birth and who you are.
What is justice?
I am reminded of the words of Nobel prize winning economist and philosopher Amartya Sen in his acclaimed book: The Idea of Justice (2009). He writes:
“Three children are squabbling over who should get to keep a flute. Anne claims the instrument on the grounds that she is the only one of the three who knows how to play it.”
“The second child Bob, says that he should have it, because he is so poor that he has no other toys to play with.”
“Finally Carla claims that the flute should be hers, because it was she who made it.”
“On the face of it, each of the three children has a plausible claim so arbitrating fairly between them will require careful negotiation and close scrutiny of all the relevant circumstances.”
“Ultimately, the decision will depend on the relative weight given to the needs of the three children and to such matters as artistic expression and the relief of poverty.”
The point made by Sen through the fable is there is no answer that is absolutely and objectively right. A decision that is fair and acceptable to all cannot be reached at the level of principle alone in the absence of public debate and reasoning.
However injustices can be removed and justice enhanced if we engage in public debate and make comparisons of actual lives.
Few politicians would stand up and argue the case for inequality.
We have some ticklish issues to determine as policy-makers and decisions have to be made on tough issues. Are some people less entitled to justice because of choices made?
Does expediency and friendship come before ensuring there is a level playing-field?
In times of economic challenge should we not enshrine some reform of legislation for those whose businesses are at risk of insolvency.
Whose rights merit greater protection, when considering age discrimination, the youth or seniors. Is it justice to decide to use a referendum model and is it not just to provide equality of opportunity for parental rights.
We are here today to salute upholding the rule of law- not the law of the jungle.
We are also here to recognise the separation of functions between the role of the judiciary and executive powers and to support those measures that reinforce the separation of powers. This extends to the budgetary process.
I end as I began.
Thank you for choosing Bermuda to hold this Conference. I join with all others in wishing you a productive and constructive Conference.
Attorney General Kim Wilson’s full speech follows below:
It is my absolute pleasure to welcome you to Bermuda for the 21st Annual Conference of the British Overseas Territories Attorneys General.
Esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, even though we hail from varied jurisdictions, and our countries are diverse in culture and nationalities – our commitment and dedication to upholding the legal principles of truth and justice are the same.
So it is against the backdrop of this year’s conference that we are here to discuss some very important matters of mutual interest.
I note that the agenda before us is as varied as it is substantive. It entails the nuts and bolts of domestic housekeeping issues such as conditions of service for public officers and keeping our respective regimes current; to issues of multinational scope such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and international sanctions. I recognise that this week’s conference will also touch on some constitutional matters as well as focus on the legal aspects of the recent White Paper on Overseas Territories. So I am very keen to hear the discussions that develop relating to all these matters.
Ladies and gentlemen, our global environment is one which has seen its share of uncertainty and turmoil. Matters on both the international economic and political front have all of our respective jurisdictions paying very close attention to current developments.
I believe as Attorney Generals – and as the lead legal advisors who help shape the policy of our jurisdictions – we all have a pivotal role to play not just on our domestic scene, but in the global arena as well.
Collaborations on such matters as trade, commerce and law enforcement, particularly as it relates to the protection of our borders are all areas which I believe require not only our partnership, but our leadership.
Finally ladies and gentlemen, it’s been said that such gatherings as these also provide the foundation for you to forge meaningful relationships, which I trust you will take the opportunity to seize.
And at the conclusion of this summit, I have the ambitious hope that we will all leave here having settled on some common ground solutions which will allow us to be better equipped to meet the challenges before us.
Lastly, I know that this is supposed to be an intellectual gathering of some of the best and brightest minds, but even the most gifted legal brains need to take a bit of down time to rest, relax and recharge.
You have travelled to our Island paradise and I want to encourage each and every one of you to take some time to enjoy the beauty of our Island and to immerse yourself in all of the hospitality that we have to offer.
We have unlimited choices available to you; golf, spa, pristine beaches and first class restaurants showcasing the finest cuisine.
But whatever you choose to do, please ensure that you take some time to enjoy our surroundings.
Esteemed colleagues, it has been my singular honour to address you this morning, thank you and enjoy your stay in Bermuda.
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