Pro­mot­ing greater ac­cess to jus­tice


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On be­half of the Fi­jian Le­gal Aid Com­mis­sion, it is in­deed my plea­sure to be with you all this morn­ing for the sign­ing cer­e­mony and the of­fi­cial launch of the “Fiji Ac­cess to Jus­tice” pro­gramme.

Ac­cess to jus­tice is one of the most im­por­tant pil­lars of our democ­racy en­shrined un­der the Fi­jian Con­sti­tu­tion. And the Le­gal Aid Com­mis­sion has been at the fore­front in “Pro­mot­ing Greater Ac­cess to Jus­tice for all Fi­jians” to en­sure that the marginalised and most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our Fi­jian com­mu­nity are pro­vided with le­gal as­sis­tance and le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion through­out Fiji. Over the last few years, the fund­ing and sup­port by the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment and in par­tic­u­lar the com­mit­ment by our Honourable Prime Min­is­ter and the Honourable At­tor­ney-Gen­eral to the pro­vi­sion of free le­gal aid ser­vices to all el­i­gi­ble Fi­jians, has en­abled the Com­mis­sion to take its ser­vices to the very doorsteps of the ru­ral and re­mote com­mu­ni­ties and to those Fi­jians who are the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety. Prior to 2012, the Com­mis­sion had only 4 of­fices in Fiji in Suva, Lau­toka, Labasa and Ba. To­day, with the as­sis­tance and com­mit­ment of the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment to the pro­vi­sion of free le­gal aid ser­vices, we have a to­tal of 16 of­fices through­out Fiji – in Nau­sori, Nas­inu, Suva, Navua, Si­ga­toka, Nadi, Lau­toka, Ba, Tavua, Raki­raki, Korovou, Labasa, Savusavu, and Tavueni. I am pleased to an­nounce that from this morn­ing, two more of­fices in Le­vuka and Nabouwalu are also open. We plan to have the of­fi­cial open­ing of these of­fices in the very near fu­ture.

In the 2016-2017 Bud­get year, our plan is to open of­fices in Ka­davu and Ro­tuma. We are also cur­rently do­ing un­der­tak­ing a study to as­sess other lo­ca­tions where we need to have an of­fice, and at this stage, we are look­ing at Seaqaqa, Vu­nidawa and Keiyasi.

In ad­di­tion to hav­ing qual­i­fied le­gal staff in all the of­fices, the Com­mis­sion is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that each of­fice also com­prises of client in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cers and other of­fi­cers who are trained in ad­e­quately at­tend­ing to all Fi­jians who re­quire our ser­vices. Apart from open­ing new of­fices through­out Fiji, the Com­mis­sion has also ex­panded the range of ser­vices it pro­vides.

In the past few years, our ser­vices have ex­panded be­yond as­sis­tance in crim­i­nal and fam­ily law to other civil law mat­ters. Pre­par­ing a will or a deed poll, tak­ing out pro­bate, or reg­is­ter­ing a caveat may be a sim­ple mat­ter for those who can af­ford the ser­vices of a lawyer, but for our clients, hav­ing ac­cess to such ser­vices has been a chal­lenge in the past. Now the Com­mis­sion pro­vides these ser­vices at all its of­fices for free, in­clud­ing pay­ing for the req­ui­site reg­is­tra­tion and pub­li­ca­tion costs. The Com­mis­sion has spent the past few months de­vel­op­ing our new 5 year Strate­gic Plan to en­sure an ‘in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice ap­proach’ bench­marked against the United Na­tions Prin­ci­ples and Guide­lines on Ac­cess to Jus­tice in Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Sys­tems which pro­vides that le­gal aid is a foun­da­tional right for ac­cess to jus­tice, and should be ac­ces­si­ble, sus­tain­able, af­ford­able, cred­i­ble and ac­count­able. The Fi­jian Ac­cess to Jus­tice pro­gramme which the Le­gal Aid Com­mis­sion has been ac­tively in­volved in, has been able to iden­tify key ac­tiv­ity ar­eas for the Com­mis­sion which this pro­gramme will fo­cus on. This pro­gramme is a first of its kind for Fiji where the Le­gal Aid Com­mis­sion stands to ben­e­fit. The fund­ing by the EU will fur­ther boost our ca­pac­ity and abil­ity to pro­vide ac­cess to jus­tice to the marginalised. Some of the pri­or­i­ties for the Com­mis­sion in this pro­gramme is to en­sure a more ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient man­age­ment of both hu­man and fi­nan­cial re­sources. These in­clude ca­pac­ity build­ing of staff through train­ing and devel­op­ment pro­grammes; a modern and well-re­sourced law li­brary; a hot­line or helpline ser­vice; a new case man­age­ment sys­tem to bet­ter man­age client and case files; and more outreach pro­grammes to raise aware­ness about our ser­vices which will be fur­ther fa­cil­i­tated through the hot­line or helpline ser­vice. Ladies and gen­tle­men, the pro­gramme clearly demon­strates the Com­mis­sion’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to fur­ther im­prove and ex­pand its ser­vices and we will con­tinue to work with our key stake­hold­ers to pro­mote and strengthen part­ner­ships and we are com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ally look at ways of im­prov­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery and pro­mot­ing greater ac­cess to jus­tice for all Fi­jians. Vi­naka

‘Fund­ing and sup­port by Gov­ern­ment to the pro­vi­sion of free le­gal aid ser­vices to all el­i­gi­ble Fi­jians, has en­abled the Com­mis­sion to take its ser­vices to ru­ral and re­mote com­mu­ni­ties.’

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