Last Thursday evening (July 2nd) the legal fraternity throughout the OECS and wider region was thrown into a state of deep mourning with the devastating news of the sudden and unexpected passing of prominent Vincentian Attorney, Nicole Sylvester, at the youthful age of 51.
Ms Sylvester is a former President of both the St Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) and OECS Bars. She served as Secretary of the OECS Bar before her elevation to President in 2006.
A go-getter, creative thinker, and excellent organiser, Ms Sylvester was the brainchild behind the OECS Law Fair (now Law Conference) which was launched in SVG in 2004. She spearheaded several initiatives at the SVG Bar during her Presidency including Law Week, the publication of a Bar magazine (SVG News), and the introduction of a Public Lecture series.
As a human rights activist, Ms Sylvester was involved in many high profile cases, including the precedent-setting Newton Spence & Peter Hughes v R – a consolidated appeal from SVG & St Lucia – where our Court of Appeal ruled, in 2001, that the automatic application of the death penalty (without a chance of mitigation after being found guilty) was unconstitutional. She was vocal on many fundamental rights issues, and was an uncompromising advocate in defence of the independence of the judiciary.
Up to her untimely passing, Ms Sylvester served as President of the SVG Human Rights Association and was an executive member of Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL), an entity established in 2013 to actively struggle against, and seek the abolition of, the death penalty. GCL is an integral part of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty.
At a Gala Dinner during the 10th annual Law Fair on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in September 2013, Ms Sylvester received a special award for her sterling contribution to the OECS Bar and, in particular, the development of the Annual Law Fair. She was the main organiser of the first nine (9) Law Fairs, which had been held up to 2012, at least once in each of the OECS countries, save for Montserrat.
Ms Sylvester was an assertive, outgoing, outspoken, energetic, committed, and hard-working human being who led from the front, undaunted by the many challenges along the way. Though she suffered a stroke several weeks ago, she was recovering nicely, and in good spirits, pressing ahead with the recuperation process in her usual positive and determined manner. No one anticipated this depressing turn of events.
From September 11-13, 2015 Grenada will be the host, for the second time (the first being in 2007), of the Annual Law Conference. The OECS Bar plans to pay very special tribute to Ms Sylvester at the Law Conference and urges lawyers to attend the much anticipated action-packed weekend of activities. Making the Law Conference a huge success will be, in and of itself, a fitting tribute to Ms Sylvester.
The region has indeed lost a live-wire and well-rounded attorney whose practice spanned several areas of law, including civil, constitutional, criminal and corporate. Hers was a well-spent 24 years at the Bar, during which she has left several indelible marks.
As part of her vision, she consistently advocated for countries in the region to join the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and for Bar Associations to become more organised, and more pro-active in rule of law and human rights issues.
The OECS Bar extends heartfelt sympathies to Ms Sylvester’s two young sons with whom she was particularly close, other members of her immediate family, and members of the SVG Bar.
Be assured that her sterling contributions will not be allowed to fade away in vain.
Rest in peace dear Nicole!