Kingston, Jamaica, December 28, 2016 – The country’s justice sector has benefited from significant Canadian funding support totaling over J$4.25 billion (Can$44.2 million) over the past 16 years. Provided under the Global Affairs Canada initiative, the money has mainly financed the sector’s reform programme, spearheaded by the Justice Ministry.
The wide-ranging projects have been facilitated under the Justice Undertaking for Social Transformation (JUST) programme. The Global Affairs initiative manages Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, promotes the country’s international trade and leads that country’s international development and humanitarian assistance endeavors. The JUST programme seeks to reform Jamaica’s justice system by making it more available, accessible, accountable, flexible, fair and affordable in a timely, courteous, respectful and competent manner for all citizens.
Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Sylvain Fabí, says key areas of funding support include a J$1.9-billion (Can$19.8-million) provision for business process reform and technical assistance, J$1.85 billion (Can$19.2 million) to acquire modern equipment, and J$502.7 million (Can$5.2 million) for capacity building. Notable among the most recent provisions has been the recruitment of a statistician to collate the number of documented criminal cases within the court system, which will be captured under a statistics and data management system.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, has indicated that this undertaking is expected to provide an accurate count, as the Ministry moves to address the high backlog of cases, estimated to be as many as 100,000.
Another recent input was the provision of state-of-the-art equipment to the Attorney General’s (AG) Department and Supreme Court. A total of 25 new desktop and laptop computers, along with backup storage devices and a projector, were presented to the AG’s Department. These will facilitate connectivity between the Department and the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies as well as the courts. Additionally, funds have been earmarked for staff training in the use of these equipment.
Fifteen desktop computers, along with a high-density server, data backup and storage, and firewall protection devices, were presented to the Supreme Court. These are expected to significantly enhance administration of the new jury management system. The 15 computers are part of an overall 85 being provided, with the remaining 70 to be dispatched to parish courts across the island.
Speaking at the presentation ceremonies earlier this year, Mr. Fabí lauded the Government for embarking on the justice-reform programme to modernize the sector.
While noting that the endeavor could be “very exhaustive and daunting”, he deemed it important, pointing out that “Jamaica is definitely on the right path”. Mr. Fabí said work is under way to develop proposals for reforming the organizational structure of the Supreme Court and Parish Courts.
Additionally, he noted that work would shortly commence to develop new criminal procedural rules. “These rules are aimed at streamlining the trial process to make (the) management of criminal cases more efficient and predictable,” the High Commissioner said.
Other notable provisions have included grant support of J$1.93 billion (Can$20 million) to assist with crime reduction under the National Security Ministry’s Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), and a similar allocation to the University of the West Indies (UWI) to facilitate the training of legislative drafters in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean
The High Commissioner said Canada welcomes the opportunity to assist, and that the Government “remains committed to supporting Jamaica in its reform goals and in ensuring that the country has a more efficient and responsive justice system”. Regionally, Canada also provided a $1.93-billion grant to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to facilitate improved administration.
Mr. Fabí said Canada also provided J$483.4 million (Can$5 million), through the Finance and the Public Service Ministry, to avail the Government of technical expertise in order to assist the Administration in fulfilling targets under the just-concluded International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Fund Facility (EFF).
Welcoming the equipment, Mr. Chuck said their acquisition is consistent with the Ministry’s “aggressive push” to modernize Jamaica’s court system in order to improve its overall efficiency. “Modernization of the court system cannot take place without 21st-century cutting-edge technology, and these computers will go a very far way in helping our drive to provide a First-World standard of justice for all Jamaican citizens,” he added.
Equally, Mr. Chuck said the state-of-the-art equipment will enhance the operational efficiency and service delivery of the AG’s Department, which, he emphasized, is pivotal in the administration of governance and justice.
For her part, Attorney General, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, also welcomed the provisions, noting that Jamaica’s long-standing relations with Canada have resulted in positive strides being recorded locally, particularly in the justice sector. Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla, emphasized that the timely delivery of justice is pivotal to the judicial system. “The donation of these modern pieces of equipment will go a far way in assisting the staff of the courts to operate more efficiently and effectively in undertaking our daily functions,” she added.
photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner