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GRENADA BAR ASSOCIATION - SPECIAL SITTING

Presentation by President of the Grenada Bar Association, Ruggles Ferguson , at Special Sitting of the High Court to pay tribute to George Louison - May 19th, 2003 

May it Please Your Lordships!

I rise on behalf of the Grenada Bar Association to pay tribute to our dear colleague George Louison - teacher, farmer, politician, revolutionary, community activist and Attorney-at-Law - who on Tuesday, May 13th, 2003 departed from us, without notice, to the great beyond! 

Whether in his capacity as primary school teacher, Youth Co-ordinator for the Caribbean Conference of Churches, Government Minister or Attorney at Law, the reports are the same: George Louison approached his work, not just as another job, but with boundless energy and enthusiasm, a sense of purpose, a commitment to duty, and a genuine desire to serve.  He was a tireless worker, a genuine patriot, a good organiser, a man of the people - a true visionary who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. 

In the turbulant period of the 1970's, in the face of heightened political repression, and in particular the brutality meted out to leaders and members of the New Jewel Movement, he  demonstrated  grit, courage and determination, never daunted by the many temporary setbacks along the way.   Together with other leaders of like mind, including Attorneys Maurice Bishop, Kendrick Radix and Lloyd Noel, he used his skills and limited resources to mobilise and organise the people, in particular the youth, in the struggle to create what he saw as not just another society, but a new and just society. Indeed, he played a decisive role in making and building the popular and historic peoples revolution of March 1979. 

It has come as a surprise to many, including myself, that he was only 51 years at the time of his death. A quick calculation will show that at the age of 28 years he was appointed Minister of Education and became a member of Cabinet in the Peoples Revolutionary Government. He, however, exhibited a sense of maturity and responsibility way beyond his age. 

I have known George for many years, moreso in the field of politics, as fellow members of the New Jewel Movement, than in law.  I can testify to his enormous capacity for hard work, his personal discipline, courage, loyalty, determination and unwavering committment to the fight for a better quality of life for his people. In those days the normal workday for the leaders and members of the NJM began well before 5am and ended well after midnight. No task was too great for George, whether it was in the nature of mental challenges, or physical challenges extending to personal danger; nor any task too menial for him, like the many community projects and clean-up campaigns in which he participated.   No time was too early to begin his duties, many times having to drive long distances from his then home in Maran, St.Johnís, for committments at 5am in St. Georgeís; or too late to end his duties, many times having to endure sleepless nights, working on one project or the other for the advancement of the country. 

No wonder in just four and a half years of his government we can boast of an International Airport, that has become the gateway to Grenadaís future and has transformed the entire South of the island into the main centre of economic activity. No wonder too that under his tenure as Minister of Education two new secondary schools were built; the rate of illiteracy was reduced dramatically with the introduction of the Centre for Popular Education to cater for adult literacy; and Grenada can today benefit from the hundreds of university scholarships granted in that era, including in the fields of medicine, economics, engineering.

Following the demise of the Revolution in 1983 George did not just sit back and brood over defeat.  He seized the time and opportunity to further his studies, qualified as an Attorney-at-Law and was called to the Bars in the United Kingdom, Grenada and Trinidad & Tobago. Though he practised mainly in Trinidad, he has appeared in several matters in Grenada over the years, and I had the opportunity of appearing on opposite sides, in a major off-shore matter in which both himself and the distinguished Queens Counsel Karl Hudson-Phillips were involved, on different sides. He resolutely defended his clients in that matter.  Like politics, his colleagues in Trinidad testify that he approached law with the same intensity, hard work , discipline and eye for detail. 

One does not need to look too far to understand why George, from a very early age, demonstrated such positive qualities, including his deep committment to struggle for social justice. In that regard, due recognition must be given to the parents of the large Louison family, hard-working farmers, who ensured that each of their children received a sound education. I am reliably informed too that Georgeís father, Garvey Louison, was named after the late great Jamaican National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, who championed the cause of blacks in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality. No doubt a certain level of consciousness for the plight of the poor and dispossessed was present in the generations before. 

In times like these, one cannot help but seek comfort in the saying: It matters not how long you  live, but how you live! George Louison lived a relatively short life, but he lived a full and quality life from which we can take example and be justly proud. Not the kind of life  that was designed to accumulate personal riches for himself, to attain all the material niceties of this world, but rather one that focused on the development of people; one that sought to improve the quality of life for all and to ensure that there was a more even distribution of wealth for the benefit of all. 

Whatever criticisms that one may have about George Louison, no one can deny his exemplary attributes: hard work, personal discipline, loyalty, selfless sacrifice and a deep sense of patriotism. He stood up and fought for what he believed regardless of the consequences. 

To his common law wife, children, brothers, sisters and other family members we say: Stand strong in this moment of grief. You have lost a great brother, father, friend and leader. However, you may take comfort in the fact that his life was not in vain. He gave selflessly, worked tirelessly and dedicated his life to the upliftment of his people. He has left an indelible mark.  History will one day record, in true perspective, his positive contribution to the social, political and economic life of Grenada. 

To my colleagues I say: Let us take this opportunity to reflect again on our own vulnerability.  Death is no respector of age or calling in life.  It is important that we put our house in order, to mitigate the harsh effects of some of the uncertainties of this life.  Thatís why I will again emphasise the importance of group pension and medical insurance as advocated by the Bar. We have to prepare for the unexpected and for the rainy days. Watch the stress levels.  I was told by one colleague of a recent television programme that categorised law as one of the most stressful professions - and they were speaking generally, not even specifically about the practise of law in Grenada. In these times of new civil procedure rules and constant deadlines, and the severe constraints under which we operate, we have to make new, innovative and conscious efforts to keep adapting to the rapid changes and   to keep stress levels down. In this regard I urge greater organisation, enhanced planning and the greater use of technology as useful tools in the overall, effective management of stress. 

To our dear colleague we say: Farewell!  You have fought a good fight. You have run a relatively short but brilliant leg of the relay. It is now for those behind to accept the baton and continue the fight.  We thank you for your selfless contribution. You have secured your place in history. No doubt the people of your hometown Concord  are especially proud of you. 

May you rest in peace!!