Jamaica news: Since Independence, the Office of the Governor General has been playing a significant role in nation-building.
From Sir. Kenneth Blackburne, who served as the first Governor General at the country’s Independence in August 1962, to the appointment of current Governor General Sir Patrick Allen in 2009, the office, has stood as a symbol of the country’s enduring unity and leadership.
Former President of the Senate, Oswald “Ossie” Harding, is hailing the office, noting that it has served Jamaica well.
Mr. Harding, who spent 28 years in the Upper House of Parliament, explains that the office of the Governor General derives full authority from Section 32 of the Constitution.
The office is non-partisan, he notes, and includes fulfilling important constitutional and ceremonial functions.
These include making key national appointments, providing objective and independent guidance to the Government of the day, and performing critical legislative functions, which Mr. Harding notes are fundamental to Jamaica’s democratic governance structure.
“The system has been working quite alright. (It) works; the (Governor General) is really a servant of the Parliament and the Independent country,” he points out.
“I think we have a good system. It needs tweaking, improving. It is not perfect; but we are a lot better off than a lot of other countries in the world,” he adds.
Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, who is Special Adviser to Sir Patrick, says that the Governor General plays a crucial role as a non-partisan arbitrator.
“The office has an individual who stands above the political fray, and can be something of an arbitrator, a mediator, but, who has the constitutional responsibility to approve whatever laws are passed by the Parliament,” he notes.
“It is very important to have somebody in that office who sits above the political leadership in the Parliament and the Government,” he argues.
The Governor General of Jamaica is appointed by Her Majesty The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, and serves as the defacto Head of State.
Among the responsibilities of the Governor General are the appointment and swearing-in of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, Cabinet Ministers, Attorney-General, Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal and other members of the Judiciary.
The Governor General also appoints members of the Services Commissions, and on the advice of the Commissions, approves appointments to public offices and decides on recommendations in respect of appointments, disciplinary control, retirement, and the payment of retirement benefits for public servants.
These Commissions include the Judicial Services Commission, the Public Services Commission and the Police Services Commission.
Other important appointments executed by the Governor General are that of Privy Councillors, the Custos Rotulorum of each parish, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Public Defender, the Political Ombudsman, the Commissioner of INDECOM, and the Contractor-General.
The Governor General convenes regular meetings with the Prime Minister, and where necessary, with members of the Cabinet and the Leader of the Opposition.
The Governor General also chairs meetings of the Privy Council, which advises him on the exercise of his Prerogative of Mercy, and appeals from public officers. The Governor General is also regularly briefed by the Chief Justice, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Commissioner of Police.
Further, through the receipt of minutes from Cabinet and the various Commissioners on government policy, he is kept advised on major governance matters.
Each Bill adopted by the Parliament must be approved by the Governor General before it becomes the law of the land.
The Governor General is also required to give formal assent to recommendations from the Prime Minister for proroguing or dissolving Parliament.
He grants formal assent to the conferral of Jamaican Honours and Awards and bestows these Awards in a specially convened ceremony at King’s House on National Heroes Day.
Ceremonial and Social Functions
The Governor General frequently grants audience to overseas delegations, as well as to Jamaican public- and private-sector officials. He receives the credentials of newly designated Ambassadors to Jamaica who also meet with him prior to the end of their assignment. Each newly appointed Jamaican Ambassador and High Commissioner may also call on the Governor General prior to their assumption of office.
At the start of each Parliamentary Year, the Governor General delivers the Throne Speech at a joint sitting of both Houses, in which the Government’s programmes for the ensuing year are outlined.
In the area of community outreach, the Governor General conducts annual parish tours, which aid in deepening understanding of issues and interests of the wider population.
Through the Governor General’s Programme for Excellence (GGPE), which includes the Governor General’s Achievement Awards (GGAA), and the I Believe Initiative (IBI), recognises citizens who have achieved greatly despite difficult and challenging socio-economic circumstances and are making a contribution to the nation.
“It is an all-embracing set of social programmes, which seek not only to recognise people for their contributions, but to encourage voluntarism. It focuses on education, building partnership, and fostering a greater sense of cohesion and responsibility for each other within the society, which is quite helpful at this time,” Ambassador Whiteman says.
The full list of Governors General of Jamaica is:
*Sir Kenneth Blackburne – August 6, 1962 to November 30, 1962.
*Sir Clifford Campbell – December 1, 1962 to March 2, 1973.
*Sir Herbert Duffus (acting) – March 2, 1973 to June 27, 1973.
*Sir Florizel Glasspole – June 27, 1973 to March 31, 1991.
*Sir Edward Zacca (acting) – March 31, 1991 to August 1, 1991.
*Sir Howard Cooke – August 1, 1991 to February 15, 2006.
- Sir Kenneth Hall – February 15, 2006 to February 26, 2009.
*Sir Patrick Allen – February 26, 2009 to present.
Source: JIS News