KINGSTON — Former Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, says the Caribbean ought to be grateful for the critical role Governors-General play in the political and legal processes of countries.
"The Caribbean, I think, owes much to you (Governors-General) and to your predecessors for advancing and helping to achieve maturity in our political and constitutional arrangements," Mr. Golding said.
He was speaking at the third working session on the second day of the 14th annual Conference of Presidents and Governors-General of CARICOM on November 22, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in New Kingston. The topic for the session was: 'Expanding the Role of the Office of the Governor-General'.
"Our political stability that we boast about and sometimes (are) so quick to take for granted, owes much to you…It owes much to the stabilising force that you have been, and the principles that have sustained and reinforce the important role that you play," he told the participants.
Mr. Golding pointed out that the role of Governors-General has been evolving over the years, beyond being "largely ceremonial functionaries and constitutional functionaries."
"It was assumed, in our (Jamaica's) case, that the persons will occupy King's House; they will assent to Bills, as is required by the constitution; they will carry out the ceremonial functions; and they will just be nice people and be there," he said.
The former Prime Minister said that the evolution of the duties of the Governors-General was influenced by the persons who have occupied that office, who “have helped to shape it and mold it, and they have moved it beyond what was originally contemplated."
"We in Jamaica have been fortunate to have had a succession of eminent, excellent persons who have been Governors-General, and who have helped to define that role and to give it new meaning and new life," Mr. Golding said.
He noted that in Jamaica, the Governor-General is, among other things, responsible for the appointment of members of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, the appointment of the Contractor General, the Political Ombudsman, the Public Defender, members of the Broadcasting Commission, and the Children’s Advocate.
"What we have sought to do is to identify those areas that have been or can be the subject of political strife, but areas which are considered to be so vital to national life, that these are not things that ought to be made into political footballs. Therefore, we took those out of the arena of political combat, and place those in the hands of someone in whom the entire society has confidence, and who can be relied on to exercise that authority in a way that is in the best interest of the country," he explained.
He informed that both the Government and Opposition "have already agreed to extend this particular formula to the appointment of the Police Service Commission and the Public Service Commission, dealing with the appointment, promotion and transfer of police officers and public servants."
Mr. Golding praised the distinguished way in which Jamaica's first Governor-General, the Most Hon. Sir Clifford Campbell and his successors "have conducted themselves in office," and have positioned that office in a way that commands the confidence of both political parties and the society as a whole.
"The Governor-General in Jamaica is increasingly seen as a symbol of national unity. They (Governors-General) have helped us to fashion that office in such a way that it is now seen, looked upon, and expected to be a centre of unity…it is a tradition, a custom that is so important to us, especially because the Governor-General in Jamaica now exercises considerably important power," he said.
The session's Moderator was Governor-General of St. Lucia, Her Excellency Dame Calliopa Pearlette Louisy.
Ten Heads of State from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica are attending the four-day conference, which is being held under the theme: 'Building Together for the Future'.
The event will allow for the sharing of experiences and developments in the various territories.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter