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|Heeding the call of the citizenry…|
|Sunday, 17 June 2012 00:02|
Gov’t launches Justice Reform System in Region 9
-- in paralegal pilot that specially targets hinterland communities
ATTORNEY-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall on Friday launched in Region 9 (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) a pilot Paralegal System primarily structured to address dispute-resolution problems in hinterland communities. It’s a move that takes into consideration the peculiar needs and lifestyles of Guyana’s First Peoples, while ensuring that processes followed and rulings made fall within constitutional mores and doctrines of the law, generally, and the Amerindian Act, specifically.
Only the helpless, vulnerable and dispossessed know the absolute hopelessness of being enmeshed in a justice system where only the monied can purchase justice through high-priced lawyers.
And because of the separation of powers, whereby government has no powers over the judicial system, it was helpless to intercede and address the unending complaints of the ordinary citizens, who cannot afford the high-priced lawyers; the months, sometimes years of long-drawn-out court cases, where sometimes essential witnesses either migrate or die, or even change their minds and their testimonies, thereby prejudicing the outcomes of judicial matters; the disappearance of essential documents, evidentiary exhibits, among other constraining factors that inhibit and/or retard the dispensation of justice to the ordinary man.
It is a fact that the ordinary citizen has no faith in the justice system as it currently obtains, oftentimes with great justification.
Government has sought ways of ameliorating human situations and quarrels where courts become a last resort in dispute-resolution.
Most vulnerable of any community in Guyana are Guyana’s First Peoples, who, because of their traditional ways of life often fall prey to blandishments and/or manipulations by more sophisticated coastlanders.
Even their own internal disputes sometimes prove too onerous to seek through Guyana’s justice system as currently obtains.
Challenges to Justice Sector
In his feature address, the AG acknowledged that “Up to 2006, various institutional assessment reports had indicated a number of challenges in the justice sector. These included delays and blockages throughout the justice sector; an absence of joined-up related (institutional) partnerships working, resulting in the entire justice system being negatively impacted, since events in one area of the system will have a direct impact on events in other parts of the system; management information was sparse, still most institutions still relied heavily upon manual record-keeping systems, making it difficult to gather information on which to use as a basis for performance assessment and problem solving.”
He outlined some of the imperatives of the government’s aggressive pursuit of its vision for Guyana, which includes, inter alia: (1) High-value employment creation; (2) improved standards of living; (3) dramatic reduction in poverty; (4) (improving) the rule of law and public safety; (5) protection of individual constitutional rights; and (6) investments in human resource development.
Continuous progress under PPP/C
The Justice Minister reported that at the end of 2010, of the 28 core poverty reduction indicators, Guyana had met or exceeded 16, with the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) Status Report of 2010 certifying that Guyana has made progress in eight of the 11 domestic targets covering Goals One through Seven.
According to the AG, the Justice Sector Reform Strategy (JSRS) is one of the several sector strategies designed to give effect to Government’s vision. Developed in 2005/6, through a wide consultative process, the AG said, the strategy seeks to address issues of security, crime and violence in support of an environment that is conducive to a favourable investment climate in Guyana.
The goal of the JSRS is: “Safety, security and access to justice for all; while its stated purpose is “To deliver a justice system that is more trusted, accessible, accountable and works together to deliver all necessary services effectively and efficiently.”
One of the key pillars of the JSRS, according to the AG, is ‘Improved access to justice, especially for the poor and vulnerable’, with the aim being the establishment of a justice system that is accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic status, gender or ethnicity; with the foregoing being some of the key underpinnings of the current reforms in execution in the sector.
Two key programmes designed for the initial implementation of the JSRS are (a) The citizens’ Security Programme, and (b) The Modernization of the Justice Administration System programme (MJAS).
Importance of volunteers
Minister Nandlall lauded the volunteers who have been undergoing strenuous training in various social and judicial disciplines; and it was the willingness of the hinterland volunteers to serve their communities in the timely delivery of justice that was the deciding factor to launch the pilot paralegal alternative dispute resolution system in Region Nine. This system is in consonance with the mediation programme in Region 4 (Demerara/Mahaica) and government’s drive to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local governance, which is being addressed in a number of ways. Recently, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development conducted the first in a series of training workshops for overseers and assistant overseers of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) under the theme, ‘Strengthening Local Government through Human Resource Development.’
The MSJS is adjunctive to this programme, all of which is a holistic approach to developing Guyana with a human face.
The Minister expressed, on both his and government’s behalf, appreciation to Ms Sophie Makonnen, country representative of funding partner, the IDB, for the continued support of that institution in support of government’s developmental initiatives and acknowledged with thanks the flexibility and the readiness to participate in problem-solving of Ms Mckonnen and her support staff, which the project coordinator advised was instrumental in the level of the project’s achievement so far.
He also thanked the volunteers for “...that spirit of national pride and love for our country that have motivated and empowered you to ‘give back’ to society in such a tangible manner”; as well as the Regional Administration, the Village Council, the National Toshaos Council and all other stakeholders, especially the citizens of this region.”
Project financing and implementation
According to Minister within the Minister of Finance, Bishop Juan Edghill, the JSRS is funded by the IDB and was established following consultations with broad-based stakeholders fora. The design is based on recommendations from 46 Amerindian communities, represented by 135 individuals, including Toshaos and Village Councillors.
The design also takes into account the comments made by state agencies, i.e: GFC, GGMC, GLASP, the Ministry of Local Government, the church, NGOs and other sections of civil society.
A stakeholder forum, which also included members of the legal profession and the police force validated the design.
Component one of the MJAS, which is based on the enhancement of institutional capacity, has been estimated to cost an approximate US$4, 730,000.00 and will finance activities in the areas of strengthening the judicial service commission; reducing backlog and raising clearance rate; strengthening court administration; enhancing skills and productivity of judges and magistrates; rehabilitation of physical infrastructures; improvind criminal justice; institutional strengthening of the Ministry of Legal Affairs; drafting civil and criminal procedural laws; and improve other criminal and civil law procedures.
According to the Bishop, Component 2 targets Strengthening linkages among justice institutions and is funded to the tune of US$1,209,000.00; with Component 3, with a funding amount of US$2,077.000.00 focusing on improving access to justice.
Bishop Edghill informed that, under the policy-based component, the Bank made disbursement in two tranches totalling fifteen million USD. The first tranche was a sum of US$7,000,000.00;while the second tranche totals US$8,000,000.00.
He said that the disbursement of each tranche was subject to the compliance of conditions, precedent and procedures that were established, with the PEU overseeing the completion of the policy-based component in 2011 when the last tranche was disbursed.
Chairing the event, which was held at the Savannah Inn in Lethem last Friday was Ms Claire Singh, REO of Region 9. Other speakers included Regional Chairman, Wilson Laurentino; Ms Melinda Janki, Director of the Justice Institute Guyana Inc.; Mr. Clarindo Lucas, trained volunteer; Ms. Sophie Makonnen, Country Representative of the IDB; with project coordinator Justice Claudette Singh introducing the Justice Minister.
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