BY KARYL WALKER Associate Editor — Crime/court desk firstname.lastname@example.org
BARBADIAN attorney Roger Forde QC, who is the lead attorney arguing on behalf of the Barbadian government in the case brought by claimant Shanique Myrie in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), says the warmth of the Jamaican people has touched his heart.
Forde left the island on Friday after the Jamaica leg of the CCJ's hearings in the case wrapped, and is now preparing to fend off legal challenges by Jamaican lawyers Michelle Brown and Nancy Anderson, as well as attorney for the Jamaican Government Dr Kathy-Ann Brown as the case moves to Bridgetown, Barbados.
The hearings have moved to that country in order to facilitate witnesses who have been called to give evidence by the Barbadian Government, which is claiming that Myrie's claim is false.
Myrie has accused Barbadian officials of subjecting her to discrimination in the form of demeaning cavity searches, abusing her verbally and locking her in a cold, dank room before carting her back to Jamaica because of her nationality.
During last week's sitting, Forde came firing from the hip as he attempted to discredit evidence brought by Myrie and the Jamaican Government.
At times it appeared that he was hell-bent on painting a bad picture of Jamaica.
At one juncture he selected three names from a list brought into evidence by the Attorney General's Office and pointed out that they were refused entry into Barbados because of fraudulent documents and other illegal reasons.
However, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer in the foyer of the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston before he departed the country, Forde was quick to point out that he holds no grudge against Jamaicans.
"It has nothing to do with nationality. The grilling is part of the trade," he said.
Forde also appeared to have been surprised by the warm welcome he received while here in Jamaica.
"The Jamaicans are some of the friendliest people I have ever met in my life. The hospitality was great. The people were warm and friendly. It was not what I expected. I think I got more support than the Jamaican attorneys. I will be back again. I love Jamaica and I want to give a special thanks to the police for their special assistance," Forde told .
He was also taken with Jamaican cuisine and culture.
"I love the ackee and saltfish. I love the Emancipation Park and I walk(ed) there every evening. The best junior attorney I have ever worked with, Alphea Jarrett, is Jamaican;, we worked together in Antigua for three years," he said.
In recent years Jamaicans have complained bitterly that Barbadians see them in a negative light and treat them with disdain when they visit that eastern Caribbean island, which is often in sharp contrast to the treatment Barbadians receive when they land on Jamaican shores.
Forde, however, said that perception is far from reality as Barbadians hold a healthy respect for Jamaicans.
"That perception is not real. Barbadians generally love Jamaicans. My favourite batsman is Lawrence Rowe. I am a Bob Marley fan. Generally, Barbadians find them as warm persons. Maybe because younger Jamaicans are known to smoke marijuana and your society tolerates marijuana smoking more than ours and I guess that is where the perception has gained ground," he said.
He also admitted to hearing the claim by a number of Jamaican women that they were accused of visiting Barbados to steal men.
"I have heard it as well. It is one thing to allege a particular reason for refusal of entry, but another thing to prove it," he said.
The top attorney also spoke to the issue that Barbadian immigration officials do not record in writing the reason they refuse entry to Jamaicans saying that he hoped that soon the notifications would be written instead of oral.
Forde also pointed out that although immigrations officials do not hand a written notice to travellers explaining the reason they are being turned away, it is recorded in a refusal register that is kept at the Immigration Department.
Last week, John Wilson, one of the witnesses who appeared on behalf of the Jamaican Government before the CCJ, complained that he was accused of trafficking drugs into Barbados and taken to a medical centre and forced to undergo an X-ray examination. Even though no illicit drugs were detected, Wilson was still detained and flown back to Jamaica on the earliest possible flight.
The Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados is not equipped with any machine with X-ray capabilities, whereas the Jamaican Government installed Ion Scan machines to detect drugs and other contraband at the island's two major airports.
This means that persons suspected by the Barbadian Drug Squad of ingesting contraband or concealing it in body cavities may be subject to X-ray examinations or, as Myrie claims, demeaning cavity searches.
Forde, while not advocating for such machines to be installed in Barbados, said it would go a far way in helping that nation to keep drugs outside its borders.
"It would be desirable," he said.
Forde has been a Queen's Counsel for 10 years and practises law in the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). He has worked on a number of appellate cases in the OECS and before the CCJ. Although he now practices law, Forde holds first degrees in mathematics and chemistry which he acquired at the University of the West Indies.
"I have a flair and love for numbers and statistics," he said.
Forde has successfully argued an appeal against the death penalty in Barbados for Lennox Boyce and Jeffrey Joseph, who were found guilty of the murder of Marquelle Hippolyte and sentenced to death.
In March 2002 the Court of Appeal of Barbados dismissed their appeals against conviction and sentence and Forde successfully argued the case in the British Privy Council and spared his clients from the gallows.
He is now looking to beat back attempts by Myrie's legal team to acquire damages and an apology for the alleged discrimination, and disprove a claim by the Jamaican Government that Barbados immigration and customs officials are unfairly targeting Jamaicans and refusing them entry for no reason.
"I hope that Jamaica joins the appellate section of the CCJ so I can get the privilege to argue cases with my colleagues in Jamaica," Forde said.
He steered clear of commenting on the Myrie case but said:
"I think the case is going well for me so far. Roger Forde is a simple, hard-working individual who pays special attention to detail and who has interest in the development of Caribbean jurisprudence," he said.