· Master of Ceremony – Ms. Erica Allen
· His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Patrick Allen
· Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, Justice Minister and Mr. Robert Rainford, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice
· Mr. Delroy Chuck, representing the Leader of the Opposition
· His Worship The Mayor, Councillor Owen Palmer
· Bishop Edwards of Spanish Town Ministers Fraternal
· Members of the Spanish Town and adjoining communities
· Ladies and gentlemen
· Cultural performers, boys and girls
It is an honour for me to deliver the Prime Minister’s Message on the occasion of this civic ceremony as part of the observance of Restorative Justice Week. Regrettably, the Prime Minister is unable to share in this very important ceremony and sends her sincere apology.
I trust that notwithstanding your obvious disappointment, her remarks, which I have the honour of presenting, will serve to encourage you to play your part in creating a more just and peaceful society.
And now to the Prime Minister’s Message.
“We have come together this afternoon in this historic place for a purpose.
In fact, a more appropriate place — Emancipation Square in Spanish Town — could hardly have been chosen for such a significant function.
This square is one of the cradles of our freedom.
It was here back on the first of August 1834 where the ‘emancipation proclamation’ was made. That proclamation marked the end to the inhumanity and injustice of slavery, and brought on the dawning of a new day, a new beginning.
It signaled a start on the winding road towards justice and freedom for our people.
I commend the Minister of Justice and the team from the Ministry and all the other stakeholders in marking Restorative Justice Week 2012 under the theme: One People, One Spirit, One Justice.
Today’s event serves as a tangible expression of the need for us to re-balance, or restore if you will, the sense of justice to our people and our society that has had to grapple with mountains of injustice over its long history going back more than 500 years.
It was ALIN TOFFLER who remarked: “The illiterate of the 21st century won't be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and re-learn”.
Therein, I believe, lies much of the significance to our presence here at this function.
As a people and society, we have suffered hurt and injustice. We wear the scars. Conflicts arise from time to time and there are those who are tempted to live by the biblical injunction – an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Clearly, this cannot be the basis on which to build a civilised society.
In the face of hurt and injustice, we are called upon to unlearn some of the things of the past – the way we have operated, what we have been taught, and how we conduct ourselves.
We have to learn in a new way of how we are going to live, and enjoy the best that life in our country has to offer.
Our progress as a people will only be assured when we can unlearn some of the old ways of doing things, of settling scores, of treating each other, of taking things into our own hands.
We have to re-learn what it truly means to live with justice, as the words of our anthem so joyfully declare – “justice, truth be ours forever.”
We have to re-learn the fervour for liberation that propelled our fore parents to seek their emancipation from slavery.
Injustice is injustice. It matters not against whom it is committed or where it occurs. Where there is injustice there can be no peace, and no society can thrive in the face of unresolved conflicts and division.
When I speak of un-learning and re-learning, it is about changing the adversarial relationships which characterise so much of what we do and how we behave towards each other.
Inequality is also injustice.
Injustice has to do with how we treat with those who are less fortunate. Justice demands fairness and as a nation we have to look critically at our relationships with each other. There can be no justice without balance.
That is what restorative justice is all about. It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offence against an individual or a community, rather than the state.
It is concerned with achieving a new sense of healing, a new sense of balance, and a new way of arriving at a resolution between aggrieved parties – victim, offender and community. We are all in this together.
Restorative justice fosters dialogue. 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 re-learn and embrace.
Restorative justice calls for the development of respectful relationships one to another. It calls on a remorseful offender to respond to, repair and take responsibility for their misdeeds, and the injury they inflict on others.
Restorative approaches seek a balanced approach to the needs of the victim, wrongdoer and community through processes that preserve the safety and dignity of all.
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.
All of us have a responsibility to become active participants in the maintenance and development of a just and equitable society, and we will best achieve this by doing what is right.
We must unlearn cynicism and never allow our voices to be among those who cry down our country and our people; those who never see any good in anyone; and those who decry our achievements and excellence.
It is time to talk up our achievements. This is the era of positive things, of ‘positive vibes’.
We must unlearn the practice of focusing on the worst in us and re-learn new ways of dealing with each other; new ways of seeking redress, of repairing the hurt, injury and injustice we inflict on others.
As a passionate believer in a community, bottom-up approach to development, I believe that the restorative justice approach, which brings together the offender, victim and community into a wholesome experience, represents a most powerful tool of people empowerment.
It embodies the concept of “healing” – healing for both the victim as well as meeting the offender’s personal needs, and involves how we think of ourselves and how we respond to injustice meted out to us.
Various methods of restorative justice are practiced every day. Examples include:
· victim offender mediation,
· healing circles,
· victim assistance,
· ex-offender assistance,
· restitution, and
· community service.
Each method focuses on the needs of both the offender and the victim, and heals in different ways.
Indeed, while we will all agree on the need for more judges, additional courts, more police patrols, better equipment, more recruitment of police men and women, greater use of intelligence and technology, improvement in forensic facilities and other such important resources for the justice system, 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-buildrespect 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.
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.
I thank you and God bless you.