The Senate on Friday February 11 delayed the passage of the Attestation of Instruments (Facilities) (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to give Parish Councillors and Mayors the powers of a Justice of the Peace.
While agreeing in principle with the proposed legislation, Senators were concerned about the lack of clarity in how the Mayors and Councillors would carry out these functions. As a result, it was suggested that the passage of the Bill be suspended, to allow Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, to prepare regulations detailing their functions.
“I would want to propose that a clause be inserted (in the Bill) that would give the Minister the power to make regulations, to set out how the functions of these ex officio Justices of the Peace (JPs) will be carried out,” Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson, suggested.
Senator Lightbourne, who piloted the Bill, noted that it seeks to give Councillors and Mayors of municipalities the powers of a Justice of the Peace (JP), for the purpose of attesting documents for the period they hold office.
She said it would make it easier for Jamaicans to carry on their businesses, and access crucial government services.
“Justices of the Peace play a very important role in relation to the verification of documents, and it’s particularly important, because it enables citizens to obtain jobs, open bank accounts, acquire loans, as well as obtain passports and other forms of documentation,” Senator, Lightbourne said.
She also noted that sometimes there was a disproportion of Justices of the Peace, and often “in areas you will hear complaints that a citizen cannot find JPs."
“There are some 222 elected Parish Councillors and Mayors of Municipalities in the island, and they are in a strategic position to remedy the situation of lack of JPs,” Senator Lightbourne noted.
She said that, currently, Parish Councillors and Mayors of Municipalities interact a lot with the citizens in communities they represent. She also observed that only Members of Parliament are currently conferred, under the Bill, with the Powers of Justices of the Peace for the purpose of attesting documents for the duration of the period they hold office.
Opposition Senator, Sandra Falconer, while supporting the Bill, questioned the reason why Senators were not included to be conferred with the Powers of a Justice of the Peace. Senator Lightbourne explained that the Ministry was “looking at persons who really interact and represent a community or a constituency."
She pointed out that Senators were not elected, and are more restricted in their movements although they do a lot of social work. She however encouraged Senators to apply for the post of Justices of the Peace within their communities.
CONTACT: LATONYA LINTON