Ladies and Gentlemen thank you all for coming today.
I am delighted that we can all celebrate the opening of the Court House Annex together.
Today is a unique day.
Today we can focus on how this government continues to build a stronger and safer future for our Federation. Today we deliver another key promise – something quite literally concrete.
My government has been committed to improving the quality and accessibility of the judicial system for our citizens. As a country we rank well on the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index and the strength of our judicial system.
However, we must not take our institutions for granted and there will always be more that we can improve on and invest in. We often think of the strength of a legal system in terms of the quality of our legal minds and the fairness of our system.
But bricks and mortar also build justice. The bricks and mortar provide a safe environment in which justice can be sought and delivered.
This means ensuring that hardworking legal professionals have the facilities and equipment they need to conduct their work to the highest standards.
And it means having the chambers available so cases can be processed in an appropriate and timely manner. If the government of the day does not provide the facilities and equipment needed, then we only hamper the legal practitioners who are seeking to support our citizens and residents who seek justice.
And without available chambers, excessive delays can place a cloud of uncertainty over our citizens’ lives, and in the worst-case discourage them from seeking recourse to the law.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to join in the opening of the Court House Annex which will be occupied by several key facilities.
First of all, we have the Magistrate Court Chamber that will serve the people in two ways.
It will cater primarily to “in camera” juvenile matters. I would hope that no young person ever passes through the legal system.
However, we can all agree that, when necessary, minors should be processed as efficiently as possible. To do this we need appropriate facilities, and enough chambers for their cases to be heard as quickly as possible.
Secondly, this Magistrate Court Chamber may also be utilized in support of the Night Court initiative to address the backlog of cases. My government has identified reducing backlogs in cases and the times that citizens wait to secure justice as a key priority to be addressed.
Chambers such as these are what we are doing to address this priority.
In addition to the Magistrate Court Chamber, there is also a state-of-the-art Law Library.
This represents a “jewel in the crown” of our legal infrastructure that will benefit the legal fraternity and all other interested persons. It will be a significant resource centre, equipped with the latest search engines, books, and periodicals, available to all stakeholders and the general public.
Having such a state-of-the-art facility will ease and improve the quality of legal practitioners’ work, ensuring that all citizens have accessible and high-quality legal services.
Finally, we are also opening three Mediation Rooms that will be filled by a cadre of well-trained mediators working under the National Mediation Committee.
Mediation is often a far superior path to conflict resolution than litigation. It can reduce costs to both the interested parties and the state, and lead to more mutually beneficial settlements.
It is crucial that as an island, St Kitts and Nevis stays at the forefront of developing trends and alternative approaches to conflict resolution.
This means ensuring that we have the physical space where it can take place and trained mediators to support those who seek it.
Mediation has the added benefit of keeping litigants out of courts and reducing backlogs and waiting times throughout the legal system.
So again, I’m delighted to open the Court House Annex…
With its Magistrate Court Centre…
It’s a state-of-the-art Law Library…
And its Mediation Rooms,
All of which will together reduce waiting times and increase the standards of our legal system.
But whilst I am proud of today’s concrete achievements, I hope that it is only the beginning.
Because I and my good friend the Attorney General hope to build further on the foundations laid here…
To continue investing throughout the legal system…
So that we can deliver the rule of law and the attendant prosperity that all citizens of St Kitts and Nevis deserve.
Last but not least, I deem it a singular honour to approve and witness the naming of this Annex in honour of the venerable Sir S. W. Tapley Seaton, who has served his country and people with remarkable honour, humility and has been a source of inspiration to so many of us.
Sir S. W. Tapley Seaton
Who is this our most meritorious citizens on whom this honour is bestowed?
Governor-General S. W. Tapley Seaton, the first Attorney General of the independent country of St. Kitts and Nevis, and the son of former Senator William A. Seaton who so ably represented St. Kitts Nevis and Anguilla when he served as a Member of the Senate of the West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962. And for completeness, I must mention that he is the younger brother of Ms. Margaret Foreman, one of the leading legal minds in the Federation. As Attorney General, and now as Governor-General, his patience in dealing with his staff, his colleagues and others made its own indelible positive mark. His contributions to the practice of law and the administration of justice in the State also speaks for itself. Not only was he President of the St. Kitts Nevis Bar Association, President of the Rotary Club, Vice President of the OECS Bar Association and later its President, but he was always on “standby” to fit any civic slot which developed and which needed high-level professional attention.
For all of that and more, we thank Sir Tapley and extend our very best wishes.