KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday April 15, 2016 – Legislation to allow impeachment proceedings against corrupt public officials and Parliamentarians, constitutional amendments to transition Jamaica to a republic and fixed election dates and term limits are on the priority list of the Jamaica Government for 2016.
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen highlighted those plans, among others, as he delivered the Throne Speech during the 2016/17 ceremonial opening of Parliament yesterday.
He told Members of Parliament and Senators the issues were among the “major action items” on the government’s legislative agenda for this year.
Listing those items, Sir Patrick said a Constitution (Amendment) Bill will be laid to, among other things, replace the Queen with a non-executive President as Jamaica’s Head of State; Parliament will see legislation to create fixed election dates and term limits for the Prime Minister; legislation to provide for impeachment proceedings to be brought against corrupt public officials and Parliamentarians is on the cards; and an Integrity Commission Bill will establish a single anti-corruption body.
Changes are also coming in the criminal justice system.
According to Sir Patrick, there will be further amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act “to give full legalization for marijuana to be used for specified purposes”.
The Governor General reported that a Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations & Agreements) (Amendment) Bill, providing for reduced sentences on guilty pleas, will be laid; and a Judicature (Resident Magistrate) (Amendment) Bill will give the prosecution the right to appeal inadequate sentences and allow for a retrial where a verdict has been contaminated, by jury tampering, for example.
The Judicature (Resident Magistrate) (Amendment) Bill will also introduce stiffer penalties for obstructing or perverting the course of justice; a Judicial Accountability legislation will be enacted to ensure judicial accountability for performance and behaviour in office; a Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) (Amendment) Bill will allow for the introduction of evidence by TV link and video-recorded evidence; and amendments will be made to the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act, to prosecute offences under the Act without a jury, Sir Patrick added.
In his speech, which had as its theme, ‘Building a Partnership for Prosperity’, Sir Patrick outlined other priorities for the government.
He said the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration which came to office in the February 25 general election intends to reposition tourism to generate higher rates of growth in job creation, visitor arrival and earnings.
Sir Patrick said the Tourism Linkages Hub will be strengthened to create pathways and opportunities to facilitate strong economic linkages between tourism and other sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and entertainment, and legislation is being developed to create a Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme, which will deal with seasonality, self-employment and contract work in the industry.
The Ministry of Tourism will also be pursuing the development of a Hospitality College and a Craft Institute to train persons “at all levels of the tourism sector,” he said.