‘Mahaica boy’ admitted to the bar

– intensify efforts to better represent indigenous peoples

By Vishani Ragobeer

Last Thursday, DEXTER SMARTT, who hails from Mahaica on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), was admitted to the local bar to practice law by Chief Justice (ag.), Roxane George. after his petition was presented by attorneys-in-law Faye-Ann Barker and Dexter Todd.

The young man completed his Certificate in Legal Education (LEC) at Hugh Wooding School of Law (HWLS) in Trinidad and Tobago a few months ago, in 2020. Prior to that, he completed his Bachelor of International Relations (IR) and Law degrees at the University of Guyana (AS).

During an interview with the Sunday Chronicle, Smartt noted that he was encouraged to pursue a career in the legal profession while taking part in a third-year IR course called International Law. Sheldon then urged McDonald, then Head of the Law Department at AS, to pursue this area, confirming that the young Smartt would be able to serve more people in this way.

McDonald knew the young man was a keen volunteer, dedicating his time to serving others. And so, Smartt eventually applied and was accepted into the AS law program. Although McDonald died shortly thereafter, Smartt continued to pursue studies in this area – encouraged by his grandparents – as a way of honoring the HoD, and in addition to his own desire to become qualified.

Reflecting on the years of study, Smartt gave a sigh and then said, “It was tiring … but fun. It was very handsome, because every day you learned something, which was great. ”

He spent three years pursuing law at AS and then an additional two in the HWLS for his LEC. During this time, Smartt was juggling several jobs and myriads of health issues. Yes, it was a challenge but he pushed through and was able to learn better time management. He also received the support of his family and friends, which was a strong support system for him.

Attorney-at-law, Dexter Smartt (center) with Chief Justice (ag.), Roxane George (right) and attorney-at-law, Faye-Ann Barker

Smartt is currently working with Dexter Todd and Associates, dealing with Company, Civil and Criminal matters. But, that’s not all he spends his time doing.

He recently started his own organization called “Ubuntu” where he seeks to provide better representation for indigenous people of Guyana. The impetus for this has his genesis years ago, when he was involved in a project that allowed him to visit prisons and interview prisoners.

“In doing so, I realized that eight out of 10 Amerindian prisoners did not understand English properly and I wondered how they could properly represent themselves or explain to the court what their problem was if they didn’t really understand English , ”He said, adding,“ Most of them were even unrepresented when they went to court. ”

Another issue he found was that when these individuals had spent their time in prison, it was difficult for them to return to their home communities because they could not identify the region or village they were from.

“Many of them just don’t know the name of the area call (a) I saw that as a very big issue because we can’t claim we are reforming someone if that’s the way we treat them when they are get back on the streets, ”Smartt lamented.

Through this organization, in the months since his return to Guyana from Trinidad, he has participated in consultations and research. He has given himself up to January next year to engage with toshaos and other indigenous peoples representatives, including the Amerindian Ministry of Affairs, to see how he could assist. An essential component of this engagement would include collaborating with them for language translation services.

He also noted that he will direct some of his efforts toward fostering youth empowerment and education.

“Service is very important to me. Most of my life has been about service and I have been volunteering for about 14 years, ”Smartt emphasized.

In his professional life, he plans to apply himself further. He is currently pursuing a Diploma in Global Leadership and will begin a Masters in Energy and Environmental Law in March; he is already considering pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), possibly in International Law.

“I don’t intend to stop,” he joked, “I like to learn, because the more I know, I can serve people better but at some point I’m going to pause, because I can’t serve people if I do I don’t have enough time. ”

Apart from his developing academic and professional journey, Smartt said, “I dedicate my entire LEC journey and bar admission to medical professionals because of how much my doctors did to keep me alive over the years. “