The pews at the Pro Cathedral of Christ the King were filled to capacity Friday (January 11) morning, as the legal fraternity along with various members of the clergy, staff and students from both public and private schools assembled for the official start the 2019 Northern Region Legal Year.
Justices, magistrates, members of the Bar Association and the Judiciary participates in the annual event, marching in solidarity from the Garnet Levarity Justice Centre to the church for the service and then return to the Justice Centre to fellowship.
Referencing his address on the Old Testament lesson, Isaiah 61 verse 8, which reads, ‘For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoings,’ Cannon Norman Lightbourne, rector of the Pro Cathedral of Christ the King, challenged those in attendance to remain mindful that while the country is faced with challenges, “we must remain steadfast in seeking our help from the Lord.
“We too are faced with a myriad of challenges from within and with others. The problems we face sometimes seem insurmountable; sometimes there seems to be no way out, no solution; but I daresay this morning that there is no problem, absolutely no problem too big for God to solve.
“My friends, the God whom we serve is the God who specializes in solving big problems. The bigger the problem is, the greater the strength He supplies,” said Lightbourne.
“May I remind us all this morning that our help commeth from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth. I believe that with every fibre of my being that I am here this morning standing, because of the grace of God.
“Presently, in our country, we have a lot of giants that we too are facing. We have many Goliaths that we need to conquer,” said Lightbourne, listing several ‘giants.’
“Firstly, the breakdown of home and family life. Secondly, the high rate of unemployment in our country, particularly here in Grand Bahama; thirdly, the serious gambling problem that we have in our nation and fourthly, the problem with greed and corruption. Last, but certainly not least the erosion of trust and confidence in the judicial system.”
He noted the problem of illegal migration, which too has an adverse effect on the nation. “What are you my dear friends as responsible citizens and learned members of the legal fraternity doing to rid out country of some of these vexing problems?” asked the religious leader. “What is your approach to solving what I call serious problems? Is it simply a wait and see attitude? Is it simply a business as usual attitude?
“I believe that I am right in saying that our country needs all of us now more than ever before, so that we collectively can seek to solve these serious, vexing problems which seek to diminish our way of life,” he suggested.
The erosion of trust and confidence in the judicial system in the country, is yet another aspect of society that many are of the view has negatively impacted the country, Lightbourne noted, adding that this is an area that needs to be addressed during this legal year.
“There can be no denial of the fact that more and more people in our country are losing faith and confidence in the judicial system. The wheels of justice seem to turn so slowly, in our country, that many persons are becoming so frustrated, so angry, so upset that they are willing to take the law into their own hands.
“I cannot support this notion. As a Justice of the Peace in this country, as a priest, I cannot support it, but I do feel for a lot of people. The truth is, when we fail to respond in a timely manner to persons in search of justice, people do lose faith and resort to self-help, in taking the law in their own hands.”
Lightbourne reminded the legal fraternity that justice delayed is indeed justice denied. “Justices, magistrates and members of the Bar Association, need I remind you, from this spot this morning, that you are gatekeepers of justice. You are guardians of fair play and custodians of the law. To whom much is given, much is expected and required. We need your help, as non-lawyers of our country. We need your assistance, we need you to help us so that we can feel better about justice in the land.
“You are the learned ones, you can do something to change the perception. I wonder, if I can ask you to add that to your resolutions this year that you should do all in your power to help what many call the broken system, so that justice can indeed be swifter,” said Lightbourne.
“Something is fundamentally wrong with the system. I heard, on the radio a few days ago, the speech given by Madam Acting Chief Justice (Vera Watkins) on the fact that a substantive Chief Justice is yet to be named in our country.
“I am interpreting that to say, what is the reason for the delay? The last one, he got it and only lived weeks after (Justice Stephen Isaacs). Something is not right and it has nothing to do with politics. I am not talking about politics, I am talking about justice,” said Lightbourne. “This is a serious matter; the judiciary is an independent branch of governance.”
Schools in attendance at the religious service included Sunland Baptist Academy, Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy, Walter Parker Primary, Alpha Omega Christian Academy, West End Primary, Freeport Primary, Hugh Campbell Primary, Maurice Moore Primary, Lewis Yard Primary, Bartlett Hill Primary, Martin Town Primary, Holmes Rock Primary, Freeport Gospel Chapel, Grace Christian Academy, Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy, Bishop Michael Eldon School, St. Paul’s Methodist College, Dominion Technical Academy, Grand Bahama Academy, Jack Hayward Junior and Senior Highs, Pine Forest Academy, Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior High, St. George’s Senior High and Eight Mile Rock High School.
During the service, selections were rendered by the Office of the Judiciary, Tabernacle Baptist Academy and Terri McClean, a teacher from Sunland Baptist Academy.