As I greet you this morning, I begin by thanking all the participants, the organizers and the national governments, Jamaican and Canadian, and other governments, past and present, for making this event possible.
We take note, ladies and gentlemen, of the international partnerships which have led us to this point. They remind us that peace, justice and good order are valued by individuals and societies who genuinely share respect and concern for one another and who also treasure our common humanity.
This conference represents a real opportunity for helping our citizens assume the responsibility which we have, for strengthening and sustaining a society of which we can all be justly proud. Of course, it is clear that the process in which we are engaged is aimed at reforming the structures and the operation of our justice system. As you can clearly see, our committed Justices of the Peace are being identified as the critical players here. These sessions will enhance their respectability to undertake greater responsibility in the chain of reform. I believe that the confidence in our JPs is well placed.
As a nation, we have been exercised for some time, about the need to establish a social justice infrastructure. I am aware that within recent years, there has been dialogue and action in the areas of Mediation, Victim Support, Child Diversion and Restorative Justice initiatives. These are all important elements of a consolidated and well-resourced social justice infrastructure. However, while the financial resources are provided and the administrative systems are perfected, in the end, it is the people who will be both the strong pillars of that social infrastructure and the beneficiaries of it as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the high points of my life was to serve as a Justice of the Peace for the parish of Manchester. Despite my very busy schedule then, it was very satisfying to work closely with the Custos to make myself available to serve in the Courts of Petty Session and participate in other required activities. Armed, at the time, with the Act, the admonition of Custos and mentored by Senior JPs; I suspect that myself along with other JPs then, functioned to the best of our abilities.
But, today our Justices of the Peace are very well equipped and trained to guide our citizens, young and old, in their understanding and acceptance of this new dispensation. More importantly, because of their closeness to the people in their communities, they can serve as trusted and respected change agents who will empower our citizens and influence the social transformation that we are anticipating.
Especially in recent times, our Justices of the Peace have been more and more representative of the broader society. They represent a wide range of disciplines and experiences. They have also been better equipped by training and have become more versed in handling cases in the Courts of Petty Session.
Indeed, for many of our citizens, when they address a JP as “Justice” even outside the precincts of the Court, it is a reflection both of respect and of confidence.
• They see their JPs as leaders in their communities.
• They want to see their JPs as persons of character and integrity.
• They expect much from you, as you serve in these Courts and give leadership to Restorative Justice initiatives in local communities. And, I know that with your pride and patriotism you will live up to their expectation.
I have no doubt that the demands on our Justices of the Peace will increase, but given recent developments, it is my hope that effectiveness and equity will go hand in hand.
Indeed, we do need to put more willing hands to the plough…or more appropriately in today’s environment, to engage more minds, hearts and technological aids, focused on the delivery of justice to all our people. We owe a great debt of gratitude to this almost 10,000 army of strong volunteers serving the nation. I am sure you thought that with all the responsibilities attendant on the office of the JPs, they are remunerated. They are not. They serve willingly for love of country, and just to make a difference.
I will not tire of reminding all Jamaicans that by using what is right with our country we can fix those things that are wrong.
We can do so by:
1. recognizing those strengths and abilities with which we are so abundantly endowed, and apply them rigorously.
2. believing in ourselves and commit ourselves to acting consistently like a self-confident people.
3. changing the negative perception that others have of us and that so often we accept as a given and unchangeable reality.
Finally allow me to commend this Reform Programme spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice. I know that the Custodes, under whose care and protection the Justices of the Peace fall, are being sufficiently seized with the importance of this training, will provide the required support and the monitoring of their progress.
The Custodes as committed and responsible First Citizens of the parish and themselves Justices of the Peace, will honour their responsibilities both to affirm and lead respectfully in all the processes, of doing the best for our citizens, for peace, for justice and for good governance. I look forward with hope and confidence to the positive outcomes which are envisaged.
Thank you Minister Chuck and your team at the Ministry of Justice and other agencies and organizations involved in making this a realty. I hope that today’s launch of deliberations will continue- and those to follow across the country, will be stimulating, purposeful and productive.
• We are depending on you, ladies and gentlemen, to be the change we need to have.
• We are depending on you to join the healing of our land.
• It is my pleasure, therefore, to launch this Series of Training Seminars for JPs to fortify them to serve as catalyst toward the return of a peaceful and better Jamaica.