Horticulturalist and Master Flower Judge, Marigold Harding, says one of her prime objectives as Custos of St. Andrew will be to revitalise the role of Justices of the Peace (JPs) within the parish.
She says that, in addition to addressing membership, she wants to make sure that they are serving the people and are visible in the communities.
Mrs. Marigold Harding
Mrs. Harding will be sworn in by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, as Custos Rotulorum of St. Andrew at a function at King’s House on Thursday (September 2). She succeeds Bishop the Hon. Dr. Carmen Stewart O.J., who served as Custos from October 1992 until her retirement on August 8, this year.
“I do look forward to going into all the communities to see what they are doing, to meet the JPs and to just encourage and reassure them that their service is important to the community,” she says.
Mrs. Harding, who is the wife of the President of the Senate, the Hon Oswald Harding O.J., has served St. Andrew as a JP for the last 28 years and believes the role must be taken very seriously.
“I feel when you are appointed as a JP, you are appointed to serve and you must be prepared to serve,” she remarks.
Mrs. Harding also thinks that JPs must be closely involved with their communities.
“Quite often we hear people say, ‘I don’t know the JP in my area’, or the JP says, ‘I don’t know you.’ I don’t think it ought to be so, because when you are appointed as JP you are appointed within a community and, therefore, you ought to be visible,” she says.
“We need to try and remember that the original concept was really meant to keep the peace in the communities,” she adds.
Mrs. Harding says her 28 years as a JP has prepared her for the role of Custos, and she is ready to serve the parish and, by extension, Jamaica. She says she is also prepared for challenges that might arise, particularly concerning the volume of work.
“You have to be a master of time management, and I think in my years of doing community work and running my own office, I am able to programme myself. You have to be able to know when to do what, and with that I think I’m going to be able to cope,” she states.
Mrs. Harding congratulated her predecessor, Bishop Stewart, for her outstanding years of service to the parish, describing her as “a very gracious and a very humble lady”.
“I learned a lot from her during my term of office as president of the (Lay Magistrates) association and I thank her,” she says.
As Custos, Mrs. Harding will be the representative of the Governor-General in St. Andrew. Among her responsibilities will be serving as Chief (Lay) Magistrate for the parish, and ensuring that there are sufficient JPs or Lay Magistrates to serve the Petty Sessions Courts and communities throughout St. Andrew.
In the meantime, Custos of St. Mary, Bobby Pottinger, who has served his parish in that capacity for the last 16 years, explains that though the job comes with tremendous challenges, it is also quite rewarding.
He says much of the compensation for the job comes from the knowledge of serving the people of the community.
“You are regarded as the first citizen in the parish and, as such, you represent the Governor General in the parish and you meet all the important dignitaries that come into the parish from various countries,” he notes.
“The Custos calls for the appointment of Justices of the Peace in communities all over the parish. They also attend frequent meetings with the Resident Magistrate and the police, regarding how law and order is being conducted and if crime is being controlled in the parish,” he informs.