Background and Context:
1. Madam speaker – for the sixth consecutive year, I rise to make my contribution to these Sectoral Debates, as the Attorney-General of Jamaica. I am grateful for a suspension of the Standing Orders to enable me to speak during the time allotted.
(See Standing Orders 34A and 86).
2. I reiterate what I pointed out in my maiden presentation back in 2016: The office of Attorney-General is not now a ministerial one, although the Attorney-General is “in attendance” at meetings of the Cabinet and the Solicitor-General is “in attendance” at meetings of the Permanent Secretaries Board. In a subsequent presentation, I averred
that by design, the framers of the Constitution of Jamaica intended the office of Attorney-General to rank at Cabinet-level, with the option for the holder to be a member of the Cabinet, where also a member of either of the Houses of Parliament.
(See sections 79 and 70 of the Constitution).
3. I should point out, in passing, for those who do not know, that within the office of Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General is the highest-ranking public servant, pursuant to the Civil Service Establishment Order. At the same time, it is noteworthy that “the public service”, as defined constitutionally, does not include service in the office of
Attorney-General. (See section 1(6) of the Constitution). Remarkably, the office has been designated a ‘professional’ one, without any reference to its executive rank.
Arguably, therefore, the holder of the office in this Honourable House, is, de jure, a backbencher, notwithstanding any privilege extended. It also means that there is no sharing of collective responsibility to Parliament for the general direction and control of the Government. (See section 69 of the Constitution).
4. These important reminders help me to avoid any temptation to get ahead of myself, or be unnecessarily restrained in discharging the functions of office.
5. I thank Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP, for the confidence he reposes in me, to entrust me, yet again, with this role of principal legal adviser to the Government he heads. I thank the people of the constituency of St James West Central who returned me to this Honourable House for a second term as their duly elected representative. I renew my commitment to them, to be relentless in my advocacy and other efforts, on their behalf, to have the machinery of government realigned for better outcomes in their interest. I also thank all my faithful companions on this amazing journey, who support me and keep me grounded: my family – especially my husband, the Honourable Justice Ian X. Forte, OJ, as well as those friends I call family, my colleagues, the assigned close protection officers (Cpl Shard Walters and Cons Edwin Calloo), my constituency management and office teams and the team at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) – led by the learned Solicitor General (SG), Mrs Marlene Aldred. I must also single out my Personal Assistant Mr Desmond Neysmith for a very special thank-you.Download Full Speech