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Welcome to our Top Stories for Saturday, February 22, 2003

 

Welcome to our Top Stories for Saturday, February 22, 2003 Welcome to our Top Stories for Saturday, February 22, 2003


Essequibo gets its own legal aid clinic
YESTERDAY saw the official opening of the first ever Legal Aid Clinic on the Essequibo Coast by Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Ms Priya Manickchand.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Ms. Priya Manickchand, speaking to the gathering during the launch of the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic at Essequibo.

The clinic is being housed in the compound of the Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) Regional Democratic Council (RDC) at Anna Regina and will deal with both criminal and civil matters. The Managing Attorney-at-law is Mr. Sunil Scarce.

In the feature address Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic, Mr. Ashton Chase, said that legal aid is intended for persons in the community who are too poor to afford the legal fees for the services of a lawyer. He said plans are afoot by the Government of Guyana to assist persons in these positions.

“The principle behind this launching of the clinic,” he said, “is that all persons should be treated as being equal before the law, and should be able to get representation to make us all equal before the law.”

Urging those who could afford a lawyer not to take advantage of the situation, Mr. Chase said: “I appeal to the people of Essequibo to give cooperation and full support and ensure that the objectives of the clinic are carried out.”

The clinic is totally dependent on local funding and in 2007, the government increased its subvention to the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic by $32M so that legal aid services could be provided countrywide before the end of 2008.

A section of the gathering of the launching of the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic in Anna Regina Essequibo Coast.

In addition to Georgetown and the Essequibo Coast, legal aid services would now be available for the first time to residents of Regions Three, Five, Six, Seven, and Ten. Minister Manickchand announced that before the end of August, the other clinics will have been launched. She noted that the government is giving to the people of Guyana ways in which they can enforce their rights to improve their livelihood. She further stated: “The Government of Guyana has made no secret of the fact that it is committed to providing quality services to all the people of Guyana. We have done more than talk; we have shown persons that Guyana… has improved. It is up to you the people of Guyana to access the services that the Government is currently providing.”

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Ms. Priya Manickchand and The Chairman, Board of Directors of the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic cutting the ribbon for the first legal aid clinic to be establish in Region 2, while Regional Chairman, Mr. Ali Baksh and other officials look on.

Regional Chairman, Mr. Ali Baksh pointed out that the establishment of a legal aid clinic in the Essequibo Region is vital in many ways, while Ms Juliet Coonjah, Vice Chairperson for the Regional Women’s Affairs Committee observed that before the establishment of such an entity in the region there was no probation and welfare service; that only temporary services were provided.

“For years I have been hammering the ministry for this, and finally, today, it has become a reality,” she said.

Residents in the area also commended the efforts and hard work of the minister in establishing the clinic in the region, which will efficiently assist vulnerable residents.

Apart from the launching of the legal aid clinic, integrated social services will also be conducted at the same office, and the new probation social services department will provide family counselling, old age pension and public assistance in addition to a special child friendly space.

The purpose of the legal aid clinic is to provide free legal services to the vulnerable, once the person qualifies for the service. The clinic can give advice about any legal matter, and can represent one in any court in Essequibo in any civil matter except in the case of libel and slander and applications for prescriptive title.

In any criminal matter, the clinic can also refer persons to either Georgetown, Berbice, or Linden, while in the case of social problems, the clinic can refer persons to an agency that can help. Special assistance for victims of domestic violence is also being offered at the clinic.

Present at the launching were several ministers of the government and Attorneys-at-law among other special invitees. (Nathalene DeFreitas)