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Prominent lawyer dies at 51

Prominent lawyer dies at 51

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St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has lost one of its most prominent lawyers.

After a short period of illness, Nicole Sylvester, a former president of both the SVG Bar and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Bar died at her home at Questelles on July 2 at the age of 51.

Sylvester, who was also the president of the Human Rights Association (HRA) recently suffered a stroke and was flown to Trinidad for medical treatment. {{more}}She had returned to SVG and was said to be recovering well at home. The news of her death therefore came as a shock to many.

President of the local Bar Association Rene Baptiste in a release stated that Sylvester was “very passionate about our noble profession, and pursued her mandate as president of the SVG Bar Association with fierce determination. Her energy was boundless and her discharge of these duties was outstanding.”

She noted that Sylvester’s agenda to be involved in making a solid contribution at the regional level coupled with that investment of her time, talent and skill was matchless.

“She richly deserved the Special Award from the OECS Bar Association for her sterling service as president of the OECS Bar Association. We have a solemn duty to continue her work on all levels.

“She was well known as an assertive advocate and committed defender of individual rights. A void has been left. She made her mark at the SVG Bar and she would be long remembered for her dynamic contribution,” Baptiste stated.

Meanwhile, another prominent attorney and perhaps one of Sylvester’s closest associates Kay Bacchus-Browne says she has not got over the loss of her friend.

“I was devastated when I got the news because I had spoken to her the very morning for about half an hour. It was a very pleasant conversation. She was speaking about coming back to work in September. We spoke about other personal issues. It was a pleasant conversation.

“I know she was slated to travel. She was supposed to leave the Carnival Monday, but it was not anything, as far as I knew, life threatening. And so I was completely blown away when I got the news. I literally couldn’t believe it. I doubted it. It was very difficult I must admit,” Bacchus-Browne told SEARCHLIGHT.

Bacchus-Browne said she is determined to assist, in any way she can with Sylvester’s family and noted that tribute will be paid to her memory by continuing the laudable work that she left.

“The Human Rights Association, the fighting for basic and constitutional rights. In particular, Ms Sylvester and I did a great deal of pro bono work for justice and equality and for constitutional propriety and I can celebrate her memory by continuing with that fight,” Bacchus-Browne added.

A release from president of the OECS Bar Association Ruggles Ferguson, dated July 7 described Sylvester as a “go-getter, creative thinker and excellent organizer.”

He said the OECS Law Fair (now Law Conference) which was launched in SVG in 2004 was Sylvester’s brain child.

“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.”

He further stated that Sylvester was an assertive, outgoing, outspoken, energetic, committed and hardworking human being who led from the front, undaunted by the many challenges along the way.

“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 organized, and more proactive 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,” Ferguson added.

Public Relations Education and Training Officer of the HRA Jeannie Ollivierre described Sylvester as genuine and one of few proactive women in St Vincent and the Grenadines who would address issues of a social, political and religious nature.

“She was sort of the spark that kept any fire burning. She was my mentor just as I was hers at times,” Ollivierre said.

She noted they both had a great working relationship and friendship, not only the Human Rights Association level, but also at the Marion House where Sylvester served as legal advisor up until her death.

“Nicole didn’t care who came for assistance, assistance was given. She didn’t look at the status of the person, but she looked at the issue and she dealt with it from a human rights perspective. She was a renowned person on the issue of human rights, internationally, regionally and locally. She was loved and she was a very loving person.

Ollivierre said Sylvester’s passing has created a void in her life and within the lives of the two organizations within which they worked. She noted that Sylvester has left a legacy that we must not just identify the wrongs in society, but do something about making the wrongs positive.

“She has left us that legacy, which as far as I am concerned as a human rights and social activist, that I must carry on. Regardless of political or religious persuasion, that we must as human beings and as Vincentians, address the issues in our country and do not be afraid to speak.

Sylvester was the daughter of prominent Queen’s Counsel Othneil Sylvester and his wife Nathalie, both of whom predeceased Nicole.

She is survived by her teenaged sons Nikolas and Justin, her husband Andre Browne, other close relatives and friends. Her funeral service is set for July 22, at the Roman Catholic Church in Kingstown.

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