I write to express my family’s heartfelt appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy and support from dignitaries, family members, friends and well-wishers, on the passing of my father Dr/ Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen. It brought comfort to us in our time of loss and grief.
First of all, we thank President David Granger for the condolences he expressed in his official capacity. We also thank Sir Shridath Ramphal for his warm and generous collegial reflections.
We thank Judge Patrick Robinson of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for his kind and fraternal letter. We received a letter of condolence from Judge Theodor Meron of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, the successor to both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), on which tribunals my father also served. We thank Judge Meron for his letter. We also thank fellow Guyanese and retired Judge of the Ontario Court of Justice Vibert Lampkin, who met me at the cemetery in Toronto and gave me both spoken and written words of solace.
Returning to Sir Shridath’s gracious letter and my father’s service on the Guyana-Venezuela Mixed Commission. I can state, from my years of close and personal interactions with my father, that he was completely convinced about the rightness of Guyana’s position, and that all of Guyana as presently constituted belongs to Guyana.
I may be forgiven for a personal disclosure. After my father’s nine year term at the ICJ (The World Court) came to an end, his colleague, the American Judge Stephen Schwebel, became President of the Court, which is comprised of 15 judges from around the world. Countries only send their best to the ICJ. Some years ago, my father, who was the soul of modesty, reluctantly related to me that Judge Schwebel conveyed the following to him. One day, at his desk in Chambers, surrounded by ICJ judges, Judge Schewbel quoted some words written by Judge Shahabuddeen and said: “That was said by the most brilliant judge ever to sit in this court ‒ bar none.”
The letter from Mr Nazar Mohamed of the Essequibo Coast ‘took the cake’, as they say. It touched me deeply and I marvelled at the genuine and loving regard which he expressed so elegantly. Any idea of a tribute that I could write for my father was put to rest by Mr Mohamed’s letter, as he captured the essence of my father in a way that I could never match. I can only repeat what I said at the wake at the Imdadul Islamic Centre in Toronto last Saturday: “Maybe Allah wanted to glorify himself, so he said “I will take this simple man from this poor village (Huis ʼT Dieren) in this third world country, lift him up and place him at the pinnacle of world legal affairs.” Allah does as he pleases.
I end with a quote from my father: “I shall not pretend that my life has been a triumph. I cannot even lay claim to the loser’s glory in coming through bloodied but unbowed. The case is that I have been blessed with luck in my career and satisfaction in work. I hope that I have not spoiled my good fortune. If I have, I ask forgiveness from the Lord; if I have not, I give him praise.”
An indulgence. My father loved music. His taste was classical, but I know he would appreciate this song, ‘Goodbye my love’ sung by the gifted South African singer Virginia Lee.
Here is the Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZDvE2-x-kg
Dad, we love you. Thanks for everything. You earned your rest.
God bless Guyana.