Justice is the bedrock of any civilized and progressive society. Jamaicans are decent, law-abiding citizens, and each is deserving of respect, freedom, equal access to fair and impartial treatment, and the right to enjoy a peaceful existence. Accordingly, JFJ believes in the protection of the Constitutional rights of every human being. JFJ’s work is guided by a recognition and acceptance of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
JFJ’s mission is to engender fundamental change in Jamaica’s judicial, economic, social and political systems in order to improve the present and future lives of all Jamaicans.
JFJ’s vision is a Jamaica where the rights of all are ensured; where there is equal opportunity for citizens to realize their full potential and enjoy a sense of wellbeing; and where our culture is enhanced, and respect shared.
JFJ values truth, transparency, integrity, empathy, humility, and respect.
On April 16, 1999, a small number of began to gather in Half-Way-Tree following the government’s announcement that gasoline taxes would be increased, effective immediately. By the next morning, more protesters had joined their ranks. There were a few scattered attempts at roadblocks and the streets were ominously quiet. Yet, by midday, the country was grinding to a halt as the roadblocks multiplied and uproar swept across the island. The protests continued violently for three days in what was instantly dubbed the “Gas Riots”.
By the gas station at foot of Jacks Hill and Barbican Roads, demonstrators stood on either side of the street; on one side were the “uptown brownings”, on the other were the “inner city masses”. It was an apt metaphor for a country divided by race, class, and history. Nevertheless, they were united in their opposition to corruption and desire for justice. A few brave souls eventually crossed the street to talk and, by the end of the day, it was a party.
The riots were successful in compelling the government to withdraw the taxation policy. Some of the protesters were still concerned about the violence and discord that had just occurred. They wanted to understand the implications of the riots and so called a meeting to discuss the matter.
Early talks focused on the frustrations of the Jamaican people, including crime, violence, corruption in the public sphere, miscarriages of justice in the judicial system, and socio-economic imbalances. There was, most importantly, a sense of an absence of fairness and equality of opportunity and the need to strive for a better Jamaica.
Though they did not yet know it, the twenty-plus people who had gathered at Anna Kay Harrisons’ home in Jacks Hill for that first meeting had founded Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ). The group held regular meetings at the Stella Maris Church Hall from then on. The number of attendees fluctuated but Monsignor Richard Albert, then a pastor at Stella Maris, always encouraged, “Keep talking. A way will open, they path will become clear.” He was right; their lively, contentious, and earnest discussions slowly resulted in an outline for a way forward.
The group decided to register as a limited liability company. On August 9, 1999, just four months after the riots, JFJ was formed. By October 15, JFJ was officially a legal entity.
First Board of Directors:
- Carolyn Gomes, Chairperson
- Michelle Smith, Secretary
- Simon Mortimer, Treasurer
- Cheryl-Ann Dunstan
- Michael Muirhead
- Gregory Mair
- Yolande Lloyd
- Derrick Lowe
- Veronica Comrie
- Richard Gomes
- Carolyn Hayle
- Keith Russell-Brown
- Peter Couch.
Founded in 1999, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is a non-government human rights and social justice organisation. JFJ serves hundreds of Jamaicans each year by providing legal services in response to human rights violations, working on legislation and policy, campaigning for social justice causes, and conducting high-impact research that shape the national human rights agenda.
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