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Unite against crime, GG urges Jamaicans

... as Beryl Rochester installed as custos of St Elizabeth

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South Central Bureau

Sunday, March 30, 2014    

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BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — There was plenty of pomp, colour and ceremony as Beryl Rochester was formally installed as Custos Rotulorum last Thursday at this historic coastal town's Independence Park.

But also, there was much substance, as Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke and Rochester,

who is St Elizabeth's first woman custos, delivered sober messages relating to national development.

Speaking to an audience of leading citizens of St Elizabeth and the wider Jamaica, including custodes, scores of justices of the peace, and political representatives, Sir Patrick underlined the threat posed by criminals among the nation's top priorities.

He urged Jamaicans to overcome "fear" and turn their faces firmly against criminals whom he said were seemingly "bent on destroying our homeland" and "who have no qualms about wrecking the prospects of honest people, snuffing out the lives of our people, including innocent infants and children".

Sir Patrick said that "law-abiding citizens... should not remain so fearful that we even refrain from reporting crimes or giving the police useful information. Each of us should be willing to do whatever we can, within our power, to reverse the tide of crime".

He reminded residents that last month, the prime minister and the opposition leader joined with him in "making an unprecedented appeal to all residents of this country... to come together, under God, and beat back this scourge of crime".

He instructed custodes and justices of the peace, to "always give leadership at the community and parish levels to secure peace and tranquility across Jamaica".

The governor general described the new custos, who is his official representative in St Elizabeth, as the "first citizen" of the parish. He encouraged her to "lead the charge to motivate all residents and friends, including those in the Diaspora, to participate in the growth and development of the parish. You have the resources available to you in the people, your justices of the peace, public and private sector entities, service clubs, pastors, teachers, farming and fishing communities and youth groups, among others.

"The people of St Elizabeth will look to you for leadership and guidance, justice and fair play," he said.

Rochester, who was formally sworn in by Sir Patrick at a King's House ceremony on February 10, received her instruments of office, the magistrates' Roll for St Elizabeth and the Insignia of the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) in Black River. The Order of Distinction, Commander Class, is bestowed on all custodes.

The new custos, who is married to former Member of Parliament for South East St Elizabeth, and retired trade unionist Derrick Rochester, assured Sir Patrick and the large audience that her responsibilities "will not be taken lightly".

As custos and the governor general's representative, Rochester is officially recognised as chief magistrate of St Elizabeth and will have among her varied responsibilities: preparing a roster of justices of the peace to serve as lay magistrates for Petty Sessions Court; making recommendations to the justice minister for appointments of justices;

and keeping a close eye on the work of voluntary organisations.

The custos reminded justices of the peace, who collectively reaffirmed their oath of office during the function, of their responsibility to be "of unquestionable integrity", to protect the rights of individuals and ensure justice for members of their community.

While volunteerism was "thankless at times" and required selflessness, Rochester said it came with "great responsibility".

"We are and should always strive to be role models in our communities; to be an inspiration and a guide for all citizens; but especially for our young people," Rochester said.

Clarke, who was representing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, noted that currently in Jamaica, six of 14 custodes are women - a first in Jamaica's history.

Women, he said, continued to "excel in several areas of endeavour". Their achievements stood as "beacons" which should encourage others "to truly shatter the glass ceilings which still exist and to step boldly into our boardrooms and into the corridors of power".

The agriculture minister, a former member of parliament for North East St Elizabeth and current representative for Central Westmoreland, renewed calls for "more Jamaican women to become political leaders".

He also hailed the contribution of St Elizabeth, especially its farmers, to national development. As agriculture minister, Clarke said: "I am heartened always at the contribution that this parish makes to agricultural production and consequently to the GDP of our country".

In taking over as custos, Rochester -- a native of Bull Savannah in South East St Elizabeth and past student of Bull Savannah Primary and St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) -- has replaced Wilfred Nembhard who resigned last September after three years in office.

Santa Cruz dentist, Dr Lyndon Rose served as acting custos following Nembhard's resignation. Both men were hailed for their service and thanked by the governor general last Thursday.

A retired accountant and former financial controller of the now mothballed bauxite/alumina plant, Alpart, the new custos has contributed significantly as a volunteer to health and social services in St Elizabeth and the wider south central Jamaica. She has served as a director of the Southern Regional Health Authority, chairman of the Black River Hospital Management Committee, and chairman of the St Elizabeth Care Committee which assists street people.

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