May 02, 2016

The ordinary citizens have always been the staunchest critics of the justice system. This is not unique to Jamaica. However, each citizen of Jamaica has the duty and the responsibility to contribute in his own way to the administration of justice. Justice is not only the business of the Government, security forces, judges, lawyers, court staff, accused persons, litigants, witnesses, jurors and other players directly involved in the justice system. It ought to be realised that justice is the business of everyone, and so every citizen is to play his part if the law is to work to ensure justice for all and real peace and stability in our island home.

In my view, the fundamental duty of every person is to respect and obey the Constitution and all the laws of the land. Regrettably, that is not being done. It is clear that our crime rate is far too high due to the failure of too many Jamaicans to obey the laws. We must be our brother's keeper, but we have walked away from this biblical and basic principle. This only serves to lead to many social ills that escalate into issues for resolution in the overburdened, under-resourced, and to some extent, an archaic system of justice.

However, to obey the law, one has to know what is the law. Each citizen has a duty to know what the law requires because, in our legal system, ignorance of the law is no excuse. It follows then that persons, before they act, should take reasonable steps to be sure they are acting legally. Information should be sought and obtained from reliable sources.

Each of us should be prepared to assist in the fight against crime by breaking the code of silence that seems to permeate the society. We should be willing informants and witnesses, when called upon to play our part. Persons should also be willing to participate as jurors, particularly in the criminal justice system, when the need arises for them to do so. Jury duty is the civic duty of every Jamaican and so serving as a juror should be regarded more as an obligation rather than as an unwelcomed imposition.

The justice system needs each and every one of us just as much as each and every one of us needs it. So, as we go about our daily lives, let us each be a good citizen, making, in our own small way, our own small contribution to the justice system of our country - it may be broken, but it is certainly not dead. As the well-known Jamaican saying goes: 'One one cocoa full basket'.

Indeed, times are rough and hardships there are, despite our green land, but as Shakespeare eloquently put it: "There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."

Therefore, in the famous words of President John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." Help your justice system. It needs you!

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