I greet you warmly and welcome you to this afternoon’s installation ceremony for the Honourable Errol Vaughan Johnson as Custos Rotulorum for the parish of St. Mary. As you are aware Mr. Johnson has acted as Custos for some time. His appointment however follows the passing of former Custos the Hon. Jeffrey McKitty who died earlier this year.
Lady Allen and I express condolence to his wife and family.
Custos McKitty was a true Jamaican patriot. His commitment to Jamaica and the tourism industry which he served for over twenty-five years, were equaled only by his endearing passion for the development of St. Mary and in particular the youth. Although his tenure as Custos Rotolrum was brief (2 years), it was impactful!
The people of St. Mary can best honour Custos McKitty’s memory by continuing the work that he had begun.
I warmly welcome Mr. Johnson to the position of Custos Rotulorum and commend him for accepting this call to serve his country and contribute to the development of Jamaica and the parish of St. Mary.
By way of its historical background, the Office of Custos dates back to fourteenth century England and was first referenced in Jamaica in 1668. We have a long list of persons who served in this office, including the famous Buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan who once lived in St. Mary and who also served as Custos of Port Royal and later Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.
The duties of Custos have varied marginally since then. The current practice is that the Custos is appointed by the Governor-General on advice by the Prime Minister and is/ becomes a non-partisan representative in the parish. He or she engages in activities that promote the rule of law, public order and civic pride.
The Custos is also responsible for ensuring that there are sufficient JPs to:
· Give leadership and support in the local communities, and
· To preside over meetings of the Petty Sessions Court.
Custodes, over the past two decades have been more involved in community life, taken on more civic duties by serving as chairperson for the parish Disaster Preparedness Committee and the Governor-General’s Programme for Excellence, which is a merger of the Governor-General’s Achievement Awards and the I Believe Initiative. In these activities, Custodes have been ably assisted by Justices of the Peace who serve voluntarily, without consideration for reward.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have every confidence in Custos Johnson’s ability to lead this parish. His transformative leadership style at St. Mary High School is well known, where he was Principal for twenty years and positioned the school as one of the leading educational institutions in the parish. As Principal he willingly shared his talent and ideas with other schools in the parish and was instrumental in implementing an intervention strategy which helped to improve literacy and numeracy in primary schools. Subsequently, he was asked to serve as Principal of Islington High School. I have no doubt that he will take that transformative approach to his work in the parish at large.
Custos Johnson’s work in education and his involvement with the Jamaica Combined Cadet Corps places him in good stead to further impact youth development in the parish, which is a continuation of the emphasis of his predecessor.
Young people constitute a significant portion of our population and the majority wants to make a contribution to national development. We must help them to grasp the vision of a new and better Jamaica, by serving as good role models who can mentor them so that they may adapt to a changing world. We must engage them; invest in them and have confidence that they will not betray the time and effort that have been devoted to their training.
In recent times, recipients and participants in the Governor-General’s Programme for Excellence have been making significant strides in their personal lives. They include Jerome Cowan, GGAA Recipient for 2011 and 2015 Chevening Scholarship Awardee; Kimroy Bailey, a GGAA Recipient 2015 who is making strides in renewable energy and robotics, and placed second in the Global Research Competition held in the USA, for his invention of the Tropical Storm Robotic Wind Turbine. We also have Petrenia Williams, another 2015 GGAA Recipient who has also copped the NCB 2015 National Scholarship Award. These young people faced many challenging circumstances but they were not daunted. They truly reflect the IBI mantra that there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.
St. Mary is a beautiful parish; rich in heritage and naturally endowed, producing several outstanding Jamaicans whose work, in various fields of endeavour has been substantial. You must do everything to maintain the tradition of excellence and not allow it to whittle away by crime and violence, domestic abuse and in particular the abuse of children. St. Mary must not be a haven for wrong doers and our JPs are going to see that it does not happen by collaborating with the (JCF) police as they protect and serve.
Custos, as you take up the mantle I know that you will have the firm support of your dear wife Loris and members of your immediate and extended family, friends, JPs, the business community and service clubs among others.
Again congratulations, I wish you every success.
I now invite you to receive the Grand Commission and Magistrates’ Roll.