The Governor-General convened a tripartite meeting with representatives of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the Government of Jamaica, on the written request of the Prime Minister, on Friday February 16, 2018, at King’s House The meeting was intended to explored ways in which each of the branches of government can collaborate and support the smooth operation of our governance structure and provide the best service to the people of Jamaica.
The Executive was represented by the Prime Minister; the Ministers of Finance & the Public Service, National Security, Justice and the Attorney General. The Legislature was represented by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. The Judiciary was represented by the Chief Justice (Ag), the President of the Court of Appeal, the Senior and other Puisne Judges.
“The people should know that this is not the first time the branches of Government have met to consider a path forward in resolving issues. The first meeting proved to be a most effective forum for dialogue. This second meeting has been called to address recent developments, to allay anxieties that the public may have and to assure everyone that our democracy is alive and well,” remarked the Governor-General.
The Prime Minister requested the meeting of the three branches in response to a perceived threat to the independence of the Judiciary, which is a core principle of our governance structure. He reiterated that the Executive had no intention of undermining or diminishing the role of the Judiciary, emphasized the high esteem in which the judicial branch was held and assured the meeting that “I do not take lightly the exercise of any authority vested in the Office of Prime Minister to ensure the effective and dignified running of the Jamaican State. My primary interest is to ensure that all of government works in the best interest of the people and that public resources are efficiently used and properly accounted for by those who use them.”
The Judiciary declared that the three branches of the Government were ‘separate but not separated, equal and independent’ in their core functions, while acknowledging that all branches had to work together. They agreed that the meeting allowed for misunderstandings to be cleared up on major issues of concern, in a manner that does not bring the judiciary into disrepute and kept it beyond reproach. “This forum provides an avenue for dialogue and it should become part of our governance structure. That way, we avoid the recent unfortunate event which were extraordinary and should not be a common occurrence,” said Chief Justice (Ag).
The Judiciary agreed that that timelines for the delivery of judgments and the disposal of cases should be established. The Executive committed to make more resources available, firstly by way of special project allocation in the upcoming fiscal year and thereafter, system wide allocation going forward.
In addition to separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and the executive’s remit, other issues discussed in-depth included the pandemic of crime and violence in the society, impact of delays in the courts, public confidence in the justice system, adequacy and efficient use of allocated resources, accountability of the justice sector and performance management.
The Governor-General observed, “Everyone can be assured that recent developments were ventilated in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding as the Prime Minister and Chief Justice reflected on the recent developments in the Judicial branch and everyone agreed that the situation could have been better and differently handled. All three branches have committed to keep inviolate the constitutional arrangements for the governance of our democracy. We will explore how to make this forum a permanent feature of our governance structure.”