A great, respected and esteemed son of the soil has been swept up with the scythe of the Reaper.
From humble beginnings like so many other sons and daughters of Guyana Bernard Celestino De Santos rose above and against tremendous odds to become one of the most famous criminal lawyers in jury trials Guyana.
He became Senior Counsel in 1990.
Bernard’s skill as a legal practitioner was always in great demand by many who could not be convinced to go to another of his colleague’s chambers.
Bernard’s successes in the upper and lower courts were stellar. For more than 50 years he laboured in the vineyards of the magistracy and the judiciary.
His labour of love brought him into close contact with thousands from many walks of life, and from every region of Guyana. It was easy therefore for Bernard to transition from legal luminary to politician when he was called upon by then Opposition Leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan to assist with cases that had a political flavour like the famous ‘Mahaicony Three’ namely Neville Wordsworth, Bhoj Pertap Singh and Vickram Deokarran all of whom were charged with treason in 1989. Bernard was successful in getting all three of the accused acquitted in 1991 and freed in a case that had captured the attention of Guyanese at home and abroad.
Bernard was again called upon by Dr. Jagan to join the CIVIC component of the PPP/C alliance prior to the 1992 elections. He campaigned with his colleagues all over Guyana until the PPP/C was victorious on October 5th, 1992. Bernard was invited to join President Jagan’s Cabinet and to be a Member of Parliament as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
While serving as Minister and Parliamentarian, Bernard successfully and skillfully piloted several Bills and amendments to Acts through the National Assembly. Bernard served in government from 1992 to 1997. After leaving government he continued to serve as a Member of Parliament on the government benches from 1997 to 2011. During his tenure as a government minister Bernard was called upon to serve on the Parliamentary Select Committee for constitutional reform, initiated by the PPP/C government but which unfortunately was unable to complete its work. After serving in parliament Bernard proceeded to continue with his private practice which, according to reliable sources never faltered in its reputation during his absence.
On May 14, 2017, Stabroek News published an extensive interview with Bernard.
In that interview Bernard was reported as saying; ‘What we have to do here is behave in such a way as to preserve our profession, to preserve our professional integrity so that the public can have confidence not only in us as practitioners but the system in which we operate’This statement is unmatched as a true reflection of the man, the comrade and the gentleman we now salute as we bid him farewell.