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  • Indeed, the protection of the rights for the most vulnerable in our society is a fundamental responsibility of any government.
  • That is why The Office of the Public Defender, an independent Commission of Parliament, was established in April 2000.
  • That important office exists to ensure that our people have a dedicated system to protect and defend their rights, advance their just causes, while fostering a culture of accountability and justice.

REMARKS BY THE PRIME MINISTER

MOST HON. PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER, ON, MP

 

THE CEREMONY FOR THE PRESENTATION OF THE INSTRUMENT OF APPOINTMENT TO MRS ARLENE HARRISON HENRY

PUBLIC DEFENDER DESIGNATE,

BALL ROOM, KING’S HOUSE

FRIDAY, JANUARY 16, 2015

 

Salutations

 

Good morning.

 

I never get tired of quoting our first National Hero, the Right excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey because he had a wise word for every occasion.

 

It was Garvey who said:

“The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself; but the ends you serve that are for all, will take you even to eternity.”

 

Today is a very special and historic occasion for our nation and our people as we continue to serve the people of Jamaica and protect preserve the human rights of all, especially the poor and disadvantaged.

 

Indeed, the protection of the rights for the most vulnerable in our society is a fundamental responsibility of any government. That is why The Office of the Public Defender, an independent Commission of Parliament, was established in April 2000.

 

That important office exists to ensure that our people have a dedicated system to protect and defend their rights, advance their just causes, while fostering a culture of accountability and justice.

In accordance with the principles of Natural Justice and the Jamaican Constitution, the Public Defender is not only empowered, but also mandated, to investigate complaints against the State by any member of the public.

 

The Office is also mandated to actively seek redress for Constitutional and Administrative injustice and provide, where necessary, assistance to people to pursue Constitutional remedies in court.

I want to commend all the previous holders of the Office and acknowledge them for their work. I salute the staff of the Office and recognize the important contribution of Mr. Earl Whitter, the former Public Defender and Mr. Matondo Mukulu, who served in the interim since the retirement of the previous Public Defender.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

The Work of the Office of the Public Defender is democracy in action. The very existence and active operation of such an Office is the hallmark of a responsible and accountable government in action.

The exercise of responsibility and accountability in Government is not a destination. It is a journey to which I am personally committed.

 

The Office of the Public Defender therefore, represents a vital plank in our democracy. It is crucial to the attainment and exercise of freedom and justice for which our ancestors fought and shed their blood.

 

It is against this background that the Government continues to advance policies and laws to broaden and deepen the rights of the Jamaican people.

 

It is in the spirit of this unshakable commitment to the rights of the people that a previous Administration in which I was a Cabinet Minister started the process towards the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms for the people of Jamaica.

 

You will recall that history of sorts was created, when while in Opposition, we supported the Government of the day by overwhelmingly voting to pass legislation for the enactment of that Charter.

 

In this context, I am delighted to be here to witness the appointment of Mrs. Arlene Harrison Henry to take up the mantle of leadership for this important Office, that truly gives voice to the people of Jamaica.

 

Mrs. Harrison Henry is a respected attorney and longstanding advocate for the protection of human rights. Her track record recommends her for this role.

 

The appointment of Mrs. Harrison Henry is also a historic development for Jamaica.

Mrs. Harrison Henry becomes the first woman Public Defender not because she is a woman, but because she has been objectively and transparently assessed as the best person for the job at this time.

 

This achievement mirrors a very important fact that is deserving of great celebration, but which has received little publicity in Jamaica.

 

A recent study by the International Labour Organisation was published in the Washington Post newspaper.

 

The ILO study assessed the status of women in top management positions in businesses in 106 countries. And guess which country is number one with the most women managers?  – Jamaica.

While nearly a third of all businesses around the world are now owned or managed by women, according to the ILO, there are only three countries where women are the majority managers at the workplace.

 

Jamaica is at number one with approximately 60 percent of all managers being women.  Colombia has the second highest percentage of female bosses at 53 percent; and Saint Lucia is third with 52.3 percent.

 

Larger, more developed countries are further down on the list.  The United States is number 15 on the list, with about 43 percent of all managers being female; Canada is ranked 43rd ranked with 36 percent; and in the United Kingdom, which is ranked 49th ranked, the figure is 34 percent.

 

I do not practice or support gender discrimination or discrimination of any kind.

However, I am proud that under my watch, Jamaica has moved from a position of gender inequality in the workplace, especially when it comes to top management positions, to one of true gender equality. Jamaica is now the leading example of the world in this regard.

 

Charge to Mrs. Harrison Henry

Mrs. Harrison Henry – I congratulate you and urge you to be “A voice of the voiceless …. to loose the chains of injustice” in keeping with the motto of The Office of the Public Defender.

 

As you advance the work of this noble Office you will be continuing your role in advancing the welfare of all Jamaicans and indeed, the whole human race.

 

I know that it is a great responsibility with many challenges and constraints. However, with God as your guide, I encourage you to give of your best in securing justice for all, which is a key component of our national development agenda.

 

Closing

 

It was the great human rights champion, Nelson Mandela who reminded us that: “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

 

In Jamaica, let us work together to preserve and advance the humanity of all our people.

Let us listen to each other, and where wrongs and injustice have occurred, let us carefully and quickly take bold steps to make them right.

 

Like our Governor General, I believe in Jamaica and I believe that together we can create a brighter future for all.

 

God bless you and God bless Jamaica, land we love.

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