Letters to the Editor

Jamaica loses another brilliant son

Friday, January 14, 2011    

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Dear Editor,

Professor Arthur Ralph Carnegie, who passed away on January 7, was one of the Caribbean's brightest intellectuals, and certainly one of its greatest legal minds.

I have had a long and beneficial association with the professor. My first year at Jamaica College was his last, and he was the school's head boy. I then had the very distinct privilege of being taught Latin and religious knowledge by a young Carnegie in second form after he had obtained the Cambridge Higher School Certificate. He later attended the University College of the West Indies where he performed brilliantly as a history student. The Rhodes Scholarship then took him to Oxford University where he again performed brilliantly, this time in law. He tutored at Oxford for some years.

He could have continued working at Oxford, but he chose instead to serve his region, and the place where he was to make his name and perform a function for which the entire Caribbean will be forever grateful was the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies.

He virtually established the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies in 1970, and his legacy will be the hundreds of students whom he tutored, many of whom went on to serve their countries and the Caribbean as prime ministers, judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice, attorneys general, directors of public prosecution, resident magistrates, judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, in private legal practice and in a variety of other capacities. His legacy is also the foundation he laid for the development of a Caribbean jurisprudence, soundly moored in the best tradition of the common law, and the natural offshoot of which was the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice. Through his teaching and his scholarly writing Ralph Carnegie demonstrated what every reasonable Caribbean national knew all along: that the Caribbean is capable of nurturing law students and producing lawyers to standards even higher than those attained by students in the UK.

He virtually established the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies in 1970, and his legacy will be the hundreds of students whom he tutored, many of whom went on to serve their countries and the Caribbean as prime ministers, judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice, attorneys general, directors of public prosecution, resident magistrates, judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, in private legal practice and in a variety of other capacities. His legacy is also the foundation he laid for the development of a Caribbean jurisprudence, soundly moored in the best tradition of the common law, and the natural offshoot of which was the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice. Through his teaching and his scholarly writing Ralph Carnegie demonstrated what every reasonable Caribbean national knew all along: that the Caribbean is capable of nurturing law students and producing lawyers to standards even higher than those attained by students in the UK.

He was particularly strong in Constitutional Law and International Law, but adept in other areas. Some years ago while researching a topic in the Law of Armed Conflict, I came across an article in the Modern Law Review by AR Carnegie, written in the 1970s. Thinking it was well outside his area of work, I did not believe it was written by Ralph. But it was, and it was of the highest standard. He more than anyone else was responsible for the development of a Caribbean sensitivity to that most important area of law - constitutional law. The bold judgements that have come out of the Eastern Caribbean on the protection of fundamental human rights have Carnegie's tutoring written over all of them.

A former chief justice told me this week that most of the text of one of his judgements was based on notes he had taken in one of Professor Carnegie's constitutional law classes. I forgot to enquire whether he had given the professor credit. I worked with him on several occasions at the Caribbean Law Institute, which he headed, and witnessed at first hand the sharpness of his intellect. I benefited from the generosity of his spirit and am doubly indebted to him because he also taught my daughter.

We live in a country and a region that has little appreciation for its brightest. Far too often the loud-mouthed vulgarian fares better. For how else could one explain the failure of his own country and the Caribbean to recognise the work of a man who has contributed so much to the closing of the circle of independence by Caribbean countries? I trust the government will recall the saying "better late than never".

Patrick Robinson

The Hague

The Netherlands

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