Civics

Civics is the study of the rights and responsibilities of citizens. It focuses on the nature and significance of government and society and is closely related to politics. As such Civics is often referred to as the science of government or the science of politics. This page focuses on the following:

  • Rights and responsibilities of a citizen
  • Constitution
  • Government
  • Parliament
  • Local Government
  • The Civil Service
  • Ministries
  • The Judiciary
  • How a Bill Becomes Law

Rights and Responsibilities

Citizenship is defined as Membership in a state, nation , country with guaranteed rights, privileges as well as duties and responsibilities. Citizenship of Jamaica is acquired through Birth, marriage or naturalization.

As Citizens we all have rights. These are:

  • Protection of right to life
  • Protection from arbitrary arrest
  • Respect for private and family life
  • Protection for privacy of home and property
  • Protection of freedom of conscience
  • Protection of peaceful assembly
  • Protection from discrimination
  • Protection of the expression
  • Rights to fair trial
  • Right to vote
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom of movement

One of the greatest right of citizen is to share in the government of the country.

Responsibilities

Every citizen or member of a community is obligated to:

  1. Pay his/her share of tax that is levied for the good of the community;
  2. Obey the laws of the land
  3. Serve as a witness in the court if summoned
  4. Serving on a jury if called

Voluntary Responsibilities

  1. Being loyal to one's country
  2. Understanding and using the Judicial process accordingly
  3. Being an active member in the community
  4. Being and active member in civic organizations
  5. Voting properly and wisely in elections
  6. Being a cooperative citizen with law enforcement agencies
  7. Being well informed on current affairs or issues
  8. Being helpful and respectful to one's neighbours

Government

The term government refers to the way in which a group of political officials conduct the affairs of the country on behalf of the citizens who elected them (L.C. Ruddock et al).

The System of government in Jamaica is Democratic. This is so because the government is elected by the people. Election occurs every five years. From this election the parliamentarians are decided. (Parliament comes from the Latin word Parliamentum which means "a talking shop"). The functions of Parliament are to enact laws for the peace order and good government of the country and to evaluate proposals for new and amended legislation; to carry out the existing laws and to provide taxation money for the work of Government. The life of Parliament is five years.

The Jamaican Parliament consists of two Houses - the Senate/Upper House and House of Representativess/The Lower House. The work of Parliament is done through both houses. Parliament has legal supremacy. This means that Parliament has the highest authority within the Constitution. It is the Parliament that effects changes within the Constitution.

Jamaica has two main political parties the Peoples National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

The parties and their control of the Parliament since the first election under Universal Adult Suffrage are as follows:

Election 

Winning Party

Party Leader & Title

December 14, 1944 JLP  Sir. Alexander Bustamante, Chief Minister
December 20, 1949 JLP Sir Alexander Bustamante, Chief Minister
January 12, 1955 PNP Rt. Excellent Norman Manley, Chief Minister
July 28, 1959 PNP Rt. Excellent Norman Manley, Chief Minister
April 10, 1962 JLP Sir Alexander Bustamante,
Premier
February 21, 1967 JLP Sir Donald Sangster  Prime Minister ( Died in office) Hon. Hugh Lawson Shearer  April 1967 - February 1972)
February 29, 1972 PNP Hon. Michael Manley, Prime Minister
October 30, 1980 JLP Hon. Edward Seaga, Prime Minister
Feb. 9, 1989 PNP Hon. Percival James Patterson, Prime Minister
March 30, 1993 PNP Hon. Percival James Patterson, Prime Minister
December 18, 1997 PNP Hon. Percival James Patterson, Prime Minister
October 16, 2002 PNP Hon. Percival James Patterson, Prime Minister
September 3, 2007 JLP Hon. Bruce Golding,
Prime Minister

December 29, 2011

PNP Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, Prime Minister

Parliament is composed of:

  • The Governor General - who is the representative of Her Majesty the Queen, who appoints him on the advice of the Prime Minister.
  • A Senate comprising 21 persons, 13 from the governing party and eight from the opposition. Senators are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The role of the Senate is to review the legislation passed by the House of Representativess.
  • The House of Representativess consists of persons who being qualified for election as Members in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution have been elected, one for each constituency and are known as members of Parliament. There are sixty (60) members in the present Parliament.
  • The Prime Minister, the Governor General, and the House of Representatives form the Cabinet. The Cabinet is the centre of the the whole system of Government as it initiates all Government policies and programmes and is responsible for the general direction and control of government. This is the most instrumental body for policy and decision making as it relates to the development of the country.

Local Government:

There are 13 Local Government Councils, one for each Parish and Kingston and St. Andrew incorporated as one Parish for the purpose of Local Government. Local Government provides those public services and amenities which are local in the sense that they are intended for citizens of the local communities. Local Government Services include: Roads and Works, Water Supplies, Public Health, Social Welfare, Fire Brigade.

The Civil Service

The Civil Service is the middle force between the politicians and the public. It is a complex organization of employees who are expected to serve the constituted, elected and reigning Government. The Executives in Government set mandates for the Civil Service. Before policies decided by the government are effected, the civil servants have to break them down into workable programmes. The main Civil Service officer in each Ministry is the Permanent Secretary.

Ministries:

Agriculture

Education

Energy

Finance & the Public Service

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade

Health & Environment

Industry, Investment & Commerce

Information, Culture, Youth & Sports

Justice

Labour and Social Security

Tourism

Transport & Works

The Judiciary

Jamaica's legal and judicial system is based on English Common Law. The judicial function is to interpret, apply and enforce the laws of Jamaica in cases where the laws are infringed or alleged to be infringed, or where contention arises between different parties. The Judiciary is made up of : A Chief Justice and Puisne Judges in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, Resident Magistrates in R.M. Courts, Coroners Court, Traffic Court, Justices of the Peace in Petty Sessions, Tribunal or inquiries.

The Court System of Jamaica includes:
 

  1. The Privy Council - The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council sits in London, England. It is the final court of appeal for Jamaica having gone through the Supreme Court of Appeal.
  2. The Court of Appeal - this Court is visited when persons are disappointed with the outcome of a case from any of the courts below except the Petty Session Court. The Supreme Court Petty Sessions' appeals are dealt with by the Judge in Chambers.
  3. The Resident Magistrates' Courts - presided over by an appointed Resident Magistrate who resides in the parish. Cases dealt with here are less serious than those dealt with by the Court of Appeal but are more important than those presented in the Petty Sessions Courts. Cases in R.M. Courts are limited to parish boundaries.
  4. The Petty Sessions Court - A Justice of the Peace (J.P.) presides over this court. Justices of the Peace are usually laymen appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Custos, (the parish representative of the Governor General). This court deals with minor offenses that are punishable by statute law.
  5. The Traffic Court - this is a special form of Resident Magistrates' Court. It deals specifically with traffic related offences within the Corporate area (Kingston and St. Andrew). Other traffic breaches are dealt with by the Resident Magistrate Court in that parish.
     
  6. Coroner's Court - This is the court that deals with inquests on the bodies of persons who have died by violence or accident. Coroners inquests are held in order to determine whether the death was natural or caused. They also deals with wrecks and treasure trove.
  7. Tribunals or inquiries - this form of judiciary allows for informal resolution of disputes usually those between the government and individuals. An example is the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.

How a Bill Becomes Law

  1. Citizens write to their Member of Parliament with an idea for a law. If the idea seems practical it is discussed with members of the Cabinet.
  2. If accepted by the Cabinet, it is discussed with the legal draftsmen who then draft the bill.
  3. The bill is sent to the Cabinet to be studied. If the Cabinet is satisfied, the bill will be introduced to the House. if not, it goes back to the legal draftsmen.
  4. The Minister informs the House of Representatives of his intention to introduce a Bill.
  5. The Bill is introduced to the House of Representatives. each member is given a copy to study. This is called the First Reading.
  6. The public is given an opportunity to discuss the Bill. suggestions are accepted.
  7. The Bill is fully discussed and the criticisms noted. This is the Second Reading.
  8. The entire House becomes a committee to discuss the Bill.
  9. If the Bill is controversial, it will be examined by Joint Select Committee of the House. A report is then submitted to the House.
  10. The Bill is accepted. It goes forward as is or with amendments. This is the Third Reading The Bill is now referred to as an Act.
  11. The Act goes through the same three stages in the Senate.
  12. The Bill is accepted but must go back to draftsmen to correct any serious errors.
  13. If it is rejected by the Senate, it goes back to the House of Representatives for further discussion.
  14. When the Act has passed through all three stages in both Houses, the Governor General gives his Assent. The Act becomes a law and is published in the Gazette.

Did You Know That:

  • Universal Adult Suffrage by which all persons ( originally 21 years old) now 18 years old and over were allowed to vote in elections was first granted in 1944 in Jamaica. Jamaica was the first British Colony to be granted Adult Suffrage.
  • The first election under Universal Adult Suffrage was held on December 14, 1944
  • A person's franchise is the right to vote.
  • The fiscal year is the financial year for accounting purposes for government is April 1 to March 31st.
  • The legislature of Jamaica includes Parliament which consists of Her Majesty represented by the Governor General, a senate and a House of Representatives.

- The Gleaner Geography and History of Jamaica (1995)
- Statistical Yearbook of Jamaica (1999)
- New Civics for Young Jamaicans by L.C. Rudduck (1994)


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