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Marko Pavliha, DCL’92

Professor and Head of the Law Department, Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transportation, University of Ljubljana; Visiting Fellow, IMO IMLI, Malta 
Former Minister of Transport and former MP and Vice-President, Parliament of the Republic of Slovenia

Headshot of Marko Pavliha

My life changed forever in 1988 when I was granted the Government of Canada Award to pursue my post-graduate studies in comparative law at McGill’s Faculty of Law in Montreal.

Despite of the fact that McGill was already known as one of the best academic institutions in the world, it meant even more to me because of its famous maritime law expert, Professor William Tetley (1927-2014), whose impressive thick blue books could be found in the library of any serious maritime-orientated stakeholder anywhere in the world. He proved to be a fantastic mix of practice and theory, a lucid, concise, common-sense, humorous and sometimes ironic lecturer, l’enfant terrible of international maritime law whose magnetic charisma impressed every student.

I remember him once in the classroom commenting on losing his argument at the Supreme Court of Canada in the following typical way: “The Supreme Court paid no attention to my big, long argument. It was 7 to 0, not even 6 to 1. It was like being killed on a green light – you were right, but you were dead.”

Marko with his wife Ester, daughter Gaja Ana and son Benjamin in their garden in Nova vas, Slovenia (EU), Summer 2018.

Marko with his wife Ester, daughter Gaja Ana and son Benjamin in their garden in Nova vas, Slovenia (EU), summer 2018.

Having obtained my doctoral degree under Tetley’s invaluable supervision and working for a few years at one of the best downtown law firms in Montreal, my wife Ester and I, together with our freshly born daughter Gaja Ana who has a dual citizenship, Slovenian and Canadian, decided to go back home (we had come from then Yugoslavia to Canada and returned from nearly separated Quebec to independent Slovenia). After two years we were blessed by another family member, Benjamin, who is – lucky for him – the only non-lawyer of the four of us.

We remained close colleagues and friends with Bill Tetley until his departure to another planet. He visited us once in Slovenia with his beloved wife Rosslyn (all Tetley’s books are dedicated to her!) to deliver a few unforgettable lectures to my Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transportation and Faculty of Law of the University of Ljubljana, as well as to the members of Maritime Law Association of Slovenia which elected him as a most distinguished Honorary Member.

After my return to the freshly independent country of Slovenia, I passed the Slovenian Bar Exam and joined the largest Slovenian reinsurance company, where I worked until I was elected to the government as Minister of Transport and later held the title of MP and Vice-President of the Parliament of the Republic of Slovenia.

Professor William Tetley visiting Ester and Marko at their apartment on Atwater in Montreal, December 1991.

Professor William Tetley visiting Ester and Marko at their apartment on Atwater in Montreal, December 1991.

Given my McGillian background and Professor Tetley’s reputation, I had the privilege of teaching law in Belgium (KU Leuven Faculty of Law), Luxemburg (European Commission) and Australia (University of Queensland, TC Beirne School of Law), and I have been a Visiting Fellow, Governor, and Member of the Academic Committee at the IMO International Maritime Law Institute in Malta (IMLI) since 1998-99. Indeed, Professor Tetley was the first person to inform me about this eminent Institute, suggesting I write a letter to Director David Attard asking him for a part-time job.

It has been now more than 20 years since I met Professor Attard for the first time, and he told me frankly that he only gave me a chance to prove myself lecturing at IMLI because of Tetley’s flattering recommendation.

As was thoughtfully mentioned in the IMLI e-News (Vol. II, Issue No. 39, 8 July 2014), which expressed condolences to Professor Tetley’s family upon his death, Bill Tetley was one of the Institute’s first and closest friends. He was a true herald in spreading the good news of the establishment of an Institute dedicated to serving the rule of international maritime law and to training lawyers from developing countries. His faith and enthusiasm sparked a keen interest in the Institute among members of the maritime world.

Time has passed and things have changed throughout my legal, commercial and political career. I have been back in academia since 2008, doing what I like the most, just like my dearest friend and supervisor Professor Tetley: spending much more time with my family, lecturing, researching, and writing. Like the prevailing majority of “successful” people, I also used to believe that academic titles, success, reputation, fame, family, a new house, a luxury car and money are the most important features in a person’s life, but when I managed to obtain them I was still somewhat unfulfilled, almost unhappy.

Fortunately, I have been interested since my childhood in researching the depths of myself and also in personal improvement, exploring the secret world of consciousness and spirituality, the One Mind. Namely, as a “spiritual scuba diver”, I strongly believe that in order to survive, we as humans need a new enlightened self-awareness, compassionate behavior, global ethics based on universal love and a new reformed, much more equitable rule of law.

All of this would not have been possible if it were not for McGill, Montreal, Canada, friends like David and Jeanne Marler and Professor William Tetley with his wife Rosslyn.