Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, is calling on the nation to embrace the restorative justice approach in resolving conflicts, to maintain a peaceful and just society.
In a speech read by Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, during a civic ceremony at Emancipation Square, Spanish Town, St. Catherine on Wednesday (February 8) the Prime Minister said adopting this approach is critical in improving interpersonal relationships.
“We will only get to the point of justice, truth and peace by coming together, face-to-face, victim, offender and community, and each party having the opportunity to address their concerns, present their perspectives and take the actions necessary to make amends. That is the restorative justice approach we must embrace,” she stated.
The Prime Minister said she was of the belief that the restorative justice approach, which is concerned with achieving a new sense of healing, balance, and a new way of arriving at a resolution between aggrieved parties, represents a most powerful tool of people empowerment.
She posited that the country’s progress will only be assured when citizens can unlearn some of the old ways of doing things, of settling scores, and “changing the adversarial relationships, which characterise so much of what we do and how we behave towards each other”.
“It is not an easy process by any means, but a necessary one which demands re-learning of many of the things we have grown accustomed to. We have to unlearn our old ways and relearn the restorative justice path,” she stressed.
The Prime Minister further noted that while the justice system must be improved, “there is also an important role for community-based restorative justice approaches in destroying the monster of injustice at the root; at the base”.
“Let us engage in re-learning. Let us re-build respect in our relationships one to another. Let us learn to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves.’ Let us re-learn how to be responsible, and how to repair the breaches. Let us re-learn how to reintegrate those who offend us,” Mrs. Simpson Miller emphasized.
“If we can embrace restorative justice and achieve these things, then I have every confidence we can move forward together in building a more just and peaceful Jamaica,” she added.
Staged by the Ministry of Justice, the civic ceremony was preceded by a ‘Justice Run’ from Stony Gut, St. Thomas to the old capital, a re-enactment of the journey taken by National Hero, Paul Bogle in 1865, to register his dissatisfaction over poor working conditions and injustices in the legal system, where black Jamaicans were severely punished for even the most minor wrongs.
The ceremony was held as part of activities to mark Restorative Justice Week 2012, which runs from February 5 to 11. It is also part of the year-long celebration of Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter