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The Classics

GG outlines roles and expectations of privy councillors

Published:Friday | September 29, 2023 | 7:44 AM
Members of the Privy Council taking the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Privy Councillor at King's House on Tuesday, September 22, 1998. From left are former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Headley Cunningham; retired Chief Justice Kenneth Smith; Dennis Lalor, businessman; David Muirhead, QC; Ambassador Donald Mills, and Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie.

 In a concise-yet-impactful address, Governor General Sir Howard Cooke emphasised to the newly appointed privy councillors that their responsibilities were far from simple. The six councillors, who will serve for a minimum of three years, were also reminded of the importance of maintaining objectivity in their roles.

Published Wednesday, September 23, 1998

Six sworn in as privy councillors

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Headley Cunningham, was among six persons sworn in by Governor General Sir Howard Cooke at King's House yesterday to serve as members of the Jamaican Privy Council.

Mr Cunningham, an attorney by profession, replaced Douglas Fletcher, a partner at the firm Myers, Fletcher and Gordon, who did not seek re-appointment.

The other five privy councillors, re-appointed and sworn in to serve until September 2001, were attorney-at-law David Muirhead, QC, who was also appointed senior member of the council; Ambassador Donald Mills, businessman Dennis Lalor, retired Chief Justice Kenneth Smith, and deputy principal at The University of the West Indies, Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie.

Cunningham said he was grateful for the confidence the governor general had reposed in him and that, despite the awesome responsibilities, he would do his best to ensure justice and fair play prevailed.

Sir Howard reminded the members that they would have to deal with all kinds of situations, some of them very sordid, but said they would have to commit themselves to objective judgement of those issues.

The governor general is empowered under the Constitution to appoint the six-member council, after consultation with the prime minister.

At least two of the members have to be people who have held public office. The seat of a privy councillor becomes vacant at the end of three years from the date of appointment, or such earlier time as may be set out in the appointment document.

The governor general, as far as practicable, attends and presides at all meetings of the Privy Council.

The role of the Privy Council is to advise on the prerogatives for which the governor general is called upon to exercise his power. Among them is the prerogative of mercy, granting pardon, and reducing punishment.

However, unlike the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom Privy Council, to which appeals are sent for determination, the Jamaican Privy Council has no judicial committee and no appeals are directed to it.


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