Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Letter of the Day | RGD clears the air

Published:Thursday | August 9, 2018 | 12:11 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The Registrar General Department (RGD) notes the article 'Break-Up' published Sunday, August 5, 2018, and wishes to clear the air in relation to the issues raised therein.

Seizure of marriage registers:

- On Monday, May 28, 2018, the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, Right Rev Robert Thompson, visited the RGD Head Office to submit the marriage register for a wedding that he officiated on Saturday, May 26, 2018.

- It was discovered that the bishop's profile had not been updated as his last wedding was conducted approximately a year ago.

- The RGD maintains a database with the Marriage Officers which consists of information such as their names, addresses, gender, cellular numbers, email addresses, signatures, the marriage officer's church and denomination.

Completion of this form is mandatory for two reasons:

- updating of the profile of each Marriage Officer; and

- compliance with legislation.

On Thursday, June 14, 2018, the RGD apologised for the inconvenience caused by the retention of Bishop Thompson's marriage register. We reminded him of the importance of completing the Update Form and of the need for him to receive a marriage officer's stamp and identification.

- On Wednesday, July 18, 2018, the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, Right Rev Robert Thompson, indicated in writing to the RGD his intent to immediately withdraw his services as a marriage officer. We are saddened by the decision that he has taken and are willing to accommodate him should he decide to reconsider, as this would be in the interest of Jamaica on the whole and his congregants in particular.

 

Marriage Officers' Registration Fees

 

On the March 3, 2014, Cabinet approved the following fees to be paid by the marriage officers and civil registrars to the Registrar General's Department:

1. Registration Fee (new marriage officer) $10,000.00

2. Annual Registration Fee (existing marriage officer) - $10,000.00

3. Late Registration Fee $ 5,000.00

After the introduction of the fees in March 2014, the marriage officers expressed some dissatisfaction on the basis that they were providing a service to the country which often do not provide any monetary compensation to them. Based on this dialogue with the relevant ministry, the then minister instructed in 2015 that the collection of such fees be suspended until further advice. These registration fees have therefore not been collected since 2015 and this is still the current position.

- Training Fee (determined by the RGD management)

- The agency has, over the years, recognised the necessity to train and retrain marriage officers and civil registrars based on the frequency and gravity of their infractions of the marriage act, some actions which have to be resolved in the courts.

- Our records indicate that the agency has always charged a fee to train these officers. These training fees are separate from the registration fee. These training fees, which may have triggered the recent media publicity initially by the Reverend Dr Howard Gregory, are aimed at offsetting the cost for the venue, refreshments and training material.

 

Meetings held to resolve the issues:

 

- We consider that the marriage officers are critical stakeholders. In this regard, on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 and Thursday, June 28, 2018, a team from the Registrar General's Department met with representatives from the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches and Reverend Dr Howard Gregory, respectively, to address a number of issues, including the fees. The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was represented at the latter meeting.

Arising from these meetings, a further meeting was held with representatives from the OPM and the RGD. A subcommittee is to be formed to include representatives from the OPM, RGD, representatives from the Umbrella Group of Churches and another representative from the Jamaica Council of Churches to ventilate and address all the relevant issues affecting Marriage Officers.

In relation to Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, Right Rev Robert Thompson, it is unfortunate that the RGD, in order to have compliance in the completion of the form, had to withhold the register.

Registrar General Department