'Enough is Enough'

Cornwall Bar Association president, others fume over unavailability of lands for well-needed justice centre

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — President of the Cornwall Bar Association Stacy-Ann Young has expressed concern over the recent disclosure that the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) has other plans for the parcel of land on which members of the judiciary were eyeing for the construction of a justice centre in Montego Bay.

The land, owned by the PAJ, is situated across from the Freeport Police Station.

Speaking to stakeholders in Montego Bay at a dinner hosted by Montego Bay businessman Lachu Ramchandani at the Mystic India Restaurant in Ironshore, St James, last week, Minister of Justice Minister Delroy Chuck revealed that the plot of land is unavailable.

“When I was told that an appropriate spot is right before the police station, I was in touch with Gordon Shirley [PAJ president] and he examined it carefully, and to tell you the frank truth, it's only this (last) week he indicated to me that there might be other plans for that land.

“He has offered me some other land which I am not too sure is suitable. It's an open book now where we can go. We have found some very nice lands which look good, but I was told it's US$2 million per acre but I really, over the next 12 months, want to find a location that we can sign off on,” said Chuck.

The revelation drew the wrath of the Cornwall Bar Association president, who underscored that the justice centre is of great importance in the delivery of justice in Montego Bay.

“We are just tired of the excuses because we believe that in much the same way that we would require BPOs [business process outsourcing] and other commercial buildings, it is necessary for us to have a functioning justice centre as it is not just needed, it is of integral importance. It is of paramount importance for us to have a proper functioning justice centre,” a strident Young said.

“I find it disappointing to hear the utterances of the minister this evening [last Friday] relating to the unavailability of the property across from the police station, and the fact that this property is being considered as prime commercial real estate and, as a result, the argument is that it is not therefore suitable for our justice centre or a court centre.”

Young expressed concern that the authority's failure to secure a location to site the courthouse for sometime now is “seen that we continue to view justice as unimportant”.

“We need to understand that we need a proper justice system in order for the economy to flourish. Therefore, we have to stop thinking about justice as a third cousin, or as an unwanted stepchild, and consider justice as being of primary importance Plus there have been several discussions that have taken place in relation to placing the justice centre one place or the other, and it's always been that it didn't work out for one reason or the other,” Young revealed.

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce Winston Lawson expressed his disappointment at the news that the Freeport location is now unavailable, but expressed a resolve to find another suitable location.

“The Freeport area was identified; we just heard that it's no longer on. We are disappointed, but the show goes on and we are going to have to work together again to see what we can come up with to get this judicial centre, which is extremely important. Montego Bay is growing so fast and we are almost bursting at the seams, and we need to ensure that we can have acceptable places for institutions like a judicial centre,” he said.

The justice minister pleaded with all the stakeholders to help secure a location in short order, pointing out that “the chief justice will be meeting with the prime minister any time soon to look at plans for the judiciary”.

“One of the plans that I am putting in is for court complexes, and Montego Bay is on top of the list. I can't go there and say we don't find any lands; I really have to say that we are still looking. For the past many years we have been looking for an ideal spot. So you, the stakeholders in Montego Bay, I need your help. Help me to find somewhere where all can agree this is the proper place,” Chuck pleaded.

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