ST VINCENT AND THE Grenadines (SVG) has lost one of its most talented sons, a true patriot, and an individual who made a herculean contribution to the development of this country.
Such is the conclusion of the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice(CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders, who was speaking on the life of fellow son of the soil, the late Queen’s Counsel, former Attorney General and public figure, Parnel Randolph Campbell CVO, more popularly known as ‘PR’.
The President’s observations were supported by: other Justices, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Counsels of the Inner and Utter Bar, a former Attorney General, and the Director of Public Prosecutions(DPP). They were just some of more than 40 legal practitioners who gathered in person, and countless others virtually, for a three and a half hour sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court(ECSC) on Tuesday, May 11, to pay tribute to the legal giant. The reason for the length of the sitting seemed to be the ease with which everyone found praise for the legal luminary, the number of lives he’d influenced, and the wide girth of his achievements.
While Saunders could not attend virtually, as the commitments of the CCJ could not be delayed, his comments were delivered by presiding Justice, Brian Cottle.
‘PR’ was a proponent of SVG replacing of her Majesty’s Privy Council by a Caribbean Court of Justice as the final appellate court, but “It is unfortunate that despite his efforts and those of others, he never lived to see this goal realised,” the CCJ President noted in his speech.
“It is not often that this little nation would produce a son or a daughter who is bright, disciplined, organised, committed to public service and brim full of confidence: such a man was Parnel R Campbell,” the President of the CCJ summarised.
With the loss of one of the country’s most talented sons, his family does not grieve alone, Saunders commented. Listening was Campbell’s wife of 47 years, Juliette Campbell, and his children, Denise Grant, Dr. Arusha Campbell- Chambers, Alpha Campbell, Bantu Campbell, Mandella Peters and Daniel Campbell.
“Someone once said no one is actually dead until the ripples they have caused in the world die away. It will be a very long time before the ripples Parnel made are no more,” he stated.
The President detailed how he met Parnel, informing that Campbell briefly taught him in the Grammar School in the late 1960’s after Campbell’s return from Canada.
“He was not our teacher for long, but I vividly recall him schooling us to mark, learn and inwardly digest certain passages of Literature, we were studying at the time,” the Justice recalled, which he felt must have been an exhortation Campbell often had imposed on himself in Canada.
“…The late sixties, was a time of considerable social and political ferment, television was just coming to the state, and so vigorous civil rights struggles in the United States, the rise of the Black Power and Black Consciousness movements,” were being beamed to televisions in the Caribbean, who were “just beginning to wrest themselves free from colonial rule.”
“…It was a heady mix, swept along many of us students led by progressive intellectuals, all anxious to make their contribution to bettering this country. PR Campbell was at the forefront of this movement…,” Saunders remembered.
The group that organised themselves with the goal of raising consciousness of Vincentians, faced ridicule, harassment, and were denounced for their actions, but persevered.
“PR actually never ceased this educational mission. It was a task that he devoted himself to with unfailing dedication and consistency, right down to the very end of his days,” the Justice noted.
Campbell was among the first batch of Caribbean lawyers who studied at the Law Faculty of the Cave Hill campus in Barbados.
As a fellow student, Saunders disclosed, “We Vincies took pride in the esteem in which PR was held by his peers. He was easily one of the most outstanding students, taking a leading part in every facet of campus life.”
While taking on a Masters, turned Doctorate in Law, Campbell was called back to the shores of St Vincent where a political career awaited him.
“In hindsight, it was an unfair request to make of him. He never got to complete the doctorate, but typically when the request was made, he did not hesitate, and from that point until his death, he made a herculean contribution to the development of this country as a long serving Attorney General, as a member of Parliament, and of Cabinet, as an outstanding Attorney-at-law, as an educator and as a servant of the people,” Saunders said.
The Justice listed those things he admired about Campbell being “his articulateness, his discipline, his organisational acumen, and his painstaking attention to microscopic detail, all undergirded by a supreme self-confidence.”
Another Justice who made known her admiration for the QC in tribute was Guyanese Justice of Appeal of the ECSC, Gertel Thom.
When the Justice first came to know of ‘PR’ it was at a regional seminar, she informed, and inquiring into who he was, she was told “that is PR Campbell, an absolutely brilliant man.”
“I would soon concur,” she stated.
She described him as a great orator. At the one-day seminar, “he presented arguments on several areas of the constitutionality of the proposed extradition treaty which was being discussed. Points that were not raised by anyone else. Approximately 45 minutes later, Mr Campbell was still on his feet speaking unscripted…”
But even with his decidedly legal mind, “…He was always respectful to the court, even when he did not share the same view as expressed by the court. I cannot recall ever seeing Mr Campbell angry.”
Because of his many attributes, he was held in high esteem throughout the region.
Thom disclosed that when Campbell was not discussing the law, she found that his two favourite topics were his family and his faith.
“St Vincent and the Grenadines has lost an outstanding son. The legal fraternity, an outstanding lawyer. The court; one of its distinguished Queen’s Counsel, and I have lost a friend,” she concluded.