PM Requests Proposals to Expand Powers of Public Defender


Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding has asked Public Defender, Earl Witter to draft a set of proposals outlining what actions need to be taken to expand the powers of that office.
During a meeting at Jamaica House on (Nov. 5) with Mr. Witter and Minister of Justice, the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, the Prime Minister said both parties should collaborate to work out any legislative amendments that are necessary, discuss the capacity of the office, and outline the current needs or shortfalls. One of the main areas of concerns raised by Mr. Witter is the need to “tidy up” the current operations, by expanding the staff, as the government seeks to establish a Citizens Protection Bureau.
Mr. Golding noted that one of the challenges is determining whether the functions of the Public Defender should be separated from that of the Political Ombudsman. However, he said the Bureau must be headed by the Public Defender. The Prime Minister stressed that it is critical for the average citizen to feel a sense of trust and protection by the Public Defender, and therefore the strengthening of the functions of that office was important.
As part of the creation of a new framework for good governance, the government plans to establish a Citizens Protection Bureau to defend the rights of citizens and secure redress where citizens’ rights are violated.
Meanwhile, Mr. Golding expressed concerns about the fact that reports currently laid in Parliament are not discussed, and stated that in future reports from select agencies must be subject to a debate within 30 days. Therefore, he said, when the next annual report of the Office of the Public Defender is presented to Parliament, it would be examined in detail by a committee, and then returned to Parliament for debate.

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