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Government is committed to providing justice to the poor, assures AG

July 19, 2016

“The Government is committed to providing justice to the poor. You do not have to be the richest or the most educated to access justice in an equitable and timely manner. Those who brag about their status and use it to take advantage of the poor must know that ‘ar do am e lefboff’ (meaning impunity) is now a thing of the past,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Hon. Joseph F. Kamara at a gathering of about 5000 residents of Waterloo and its environs, at a Legal Aid outreach event at Med Porch Entertainment ground, on Sunday, 17 July.

The Attorney-General stressed the importance of women’s right in national development and called on men who are in the habit of treating their partners shabbily to start treating them with respect, noting that the Board would stand with these women to ensure their rights are respected.

“You cannot treat your wives badly by beating and driving them out of the home and expect to go away with it,” he said. “Husband and wife are equal in term of everything, including the right to property, which must be shared equally. We will therefore not turn a blind eye to men treating their wives as lesser humans. This is why the Legal Aid Board is here to ensure this does not happen.”

Mr Kamara also spoke on children’s rights and called on parents to take good care of their children by ensuring they attend school regularly and not force them into hawking. He urged parents to take advantage of the free primary education provided by the Government and send their children to school. He warned school administrators and teachers who impose extra charges on children, noting that culprits would face the full force of the law.

Director of the Legal Aid Board, Madam Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, told the gathering that residents of Waterloo account for majority of those who have benefitted from the Board. “The Board has secured the discharge of matters against drivers, traders and children from Waterloo. Our concern is that there are too many children from Waterloo in prison,” she said.

Madam Carlton-Hanciles informed the gathering that the Board was at an advanced stage of opening offices in the provinces. “We will open a Citizen’s Advisory Bureau in Waterloo in the coming weeks to help with resolving some of the minor issues that would otherwise be taken to the courts,” she revealed.

She further told the audience that the services of the Board are free. “You do not have to pay a penny for our services and you should report to us those who demand money from you. The cases we handle do not take a long time in the courts because our lawyers do not absent themselves for sittings,’ she said.

She said a lot has been achieved since the introduction of the‘Scaling up Access to Justice’ programme. “Over 500 clients have benefited from this programme since January 2016. Also, we will be introducing the Child Protection under the Law programme, which will address issues of rights of children,” she said.

Chairmen for the event, Hon. Hassan Gbassay Kanu, said the establishment of the Board came as a huge relief to the poor, who were disadvantaged in accessing justice in the past. He said he was delighted to read in newspapers the release of 20 remand detainees by the Board.

Sharing his experience of serving over one year at the Pademba Road Correctional Centre, he said he interacted with prisoners who did not know why they were incarcerated. He said the Board was saving lives by shortening the amount of time people would normally spend in prison. He added that the longer the time spent behind bars, the greater the risk of dying from harsh prison conditions.

A youth representative, who only identified himself as Jeffrey, said the Board has done quite a lot for the Waterloo community. He called on the youth to reciprocate by not resorting to crime.

The Women’s representative stressed constraints that women face in accessing justice and called on the Board to pay special attention to them. President of Women for Justice, Hawanatu Sulaiman Kamara, underscored her organisation’s commitment to working with the Board to kick injustice against women out of the community.

Representative of the Western Area Rural District Council, Deputy Chief Administrator Peter Koroma, said the Council was prepared to work with the Board to promote access to justice in the rural district. “We will assist with setting up the Citizens Advisory Bureaus in the wards,” he asured.

The event was climaxed by a skit on the challenges facing access to justice by entertainment group WANPOT.  Pupils from the Kulafai Rashideen Primary School in Waterloo contributed songs. One of the pupils made a statement on the constraints they are facing in the school and asked for assistance in renovating a dilapidated building. He also pleaded for scholarships.

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