Final goodbyes said for retired Chief Justice Joaquim Gonsalves-Sabola
As if it were a prince of real royal blood, the life of a Guyanese who made Bahamas his home proudly was laid to rest on Friday April 16, in statesmanship fashion.
Tributes of honour and opulence were many for the late Sir Joaquim Claudino Gonsalves-Sabola who dedicated most of his life to the legal profession in Guyana and development of the Bahamian judicial system, during an official funeral service at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Bahamas.
The honourable son of Guyana’s soil who originated from Berbice, died on Easter Sunday, April 4 in hospital after a brief illness. He was hospitalised and was to have gone home on the day that he passed away in the Bahamas.
A man of many letters and untold respect, during the sombre ceremony, the life of the former President of the Court of Appeal was celebrated by family and friends, Members of Parliament and members of the Judiciary. The parliamentarians included The Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert A Ingraham and several Cabinet Ministers.
The newly appointed Governor General, Sir Arthur Foulkes and Lady Jane Foulkes were also in attendance.
Monsignor Preston Moss, delivering the sermon, hailed Sir Joaquim a man of ‘excellence’ with high standards, known for his love of the English language and ‘a great writer of letters.’ Monsignor Moss also dubbed Sir Joaquim the consummate educator.
Prime Minister Ingraham said that Sir Joaquim’s love and respect for the law played a significant role in early initiatives to modernise the laws and practice of law in the Bahamas.
He was an excellent communicator who influenced a number of reforms and improvements to conditions impacting the Judiciary, Prime Minister Ingraham stated, while Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett labelled Sir Joaquim a ‘jurist’ who was not afraid to push the envelope in support of justice.
To him, the statesman played an important role in the administration of the courts and was also instrumental in the preparation of the present Supreme Court Act and the enactment of the Judges Remunerations and Pensions Act and in particular, the amendments made in 1995 which greatly improved the pension benefits of Judges and their spouses.
Opposition Leader Perry G Christie said Sir Joaquim was a man of “courtly demeanour” who was a gentleman of the “old school.”
Although the Bahamas was not the land of his birth, Christie said, “Sir Joaquim embraced “our country with a patriotism, loyalty and commitment to duty that truly made him one of us.”
He said that Sir Joaquim was a judge whose rulings were always distinguished by scholarship, understanding and a ‘firm grasp’ of the centrality of justice. He always carried himself with tremendous dignity. However, this did not in any way prevent him from earning the affection of a wide circle of persons in the Bahamas for the sincere interest and warm personal regard he always displayed towards them.
Dame Joan Sawyer, President of the Court of Appeal, in her tribute said that as Chief Justice Sir Joaquim instituted a system of monthly meetings with Justices; he held regular meetings with the Rules Committee as well as the Judicial and Legal Service Commission; he co-operated with all segments of the government and the legal profession in order to get the work of the courts done.
As Chief Justice he mentored the junior Justices with both kind words and judicious behaviour at all times. It was no accident that his service to the Bahamas judiciary was recognised by Her Majesty the Queen by conferring upon him of a Knighthood.
He was appointed as President of the Court of Appeal of the Bahamas from January1, 1996.
At that time, the Bahamas Court of Appeal had no fixed place of abode, so Sir Joaquin found himself working from home.
Notable was the fact that he was the first Bahamian to be made an Honorary Bencher of Gray’s Inn and actively participated in the Inn’s business to the extent that his commitments in the Bahamas permitted.
His innate kindness and gentleness won him many friends and admirers and in act, even his enemies- if he had any, were made to be at peace with him.
Upon completion of the committal service, the Bahamian National Anthem was played. Governor General Arthur Foulkes followed by PM Ingram bowed to the national Flag and to the grave and took leave of Lady Gonsalves-Sabola and her family members.
Sir Joaquim was born on October 2, l929 in Berbice, British Guiana (Guyana) to the late Augustus George and Mary Isabelle Gonsalves-Sabola. He was the youngest of three siblings.
He married the former Sheila Ifill on April 2, l956 and the couple had three daughters, Suzanne Marie Ducille, Kim Camille and Mary Margaret. All three of them are practicing lawyers in Florida, St Lucia and the Bahamas.