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 lef boff’ (meaning impunity) is now a thing of the past.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joseph Kamara made the remarks at a gathering of around five thousand residents of Waterloo and its environs at a Legal Aid outreach event held at Med Porch Entertainment Complex on Sunday, July 17.
The Attorney-General stressed the importance of women’s right in national development.
He called on men who are in the habit of treating their partners shabbily to start treating them with respect, noting that the Board will stand with these women to ensure their respects are respected.
‘You cannot treat your wives badly by beating and driving them out of the home and expect to get away with it,’ he said. ‘Husband and wife are equal in terms 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.’
The AG 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 the 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 will face the full force of the law.
The 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 the Board.
‘The Board has secured the discharge of matters against drivers, traders and children from Waterloo,’ she said. ‘Our concern is that there are too many children from Waterloo in prison. ’
Madam Carlton-Hanciles informed the gathering that the Board is at an advance stage of opening offices upcountry.
‘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 said.
Madam Carlton-Hanciles further noted 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,’ she said.
‘The cases we handle do not take a long time in the courts because our lawyers do not absent themselves for sittings.’
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,’she said.
Also, we will be introducing the Child Protection under the Law programme which will address issues of rights of children.
The chairmen for the event, Hon. Hassan Gbassay Kanu said the establishment of the Board is a huge relief to the poor who were disadvantaged in accessing justice in the past.
He said he was delighted to read in the newspapers the release of 20 remand detainees by the Board.
Sharing his experience serving over one year at the Pademba Road Correctional Center, he said he interacted with prisoners who do not know why they were incarcerated.
He said the Board is saving lives by shortening the amount of time people would have spent in prison. He added that the longer the time spent, the greater the risk of dying from harsh prison conditions.
The youth representative, 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 the constraints women face in accessing justice and called on the Board to pay special attention to them.
The President of Women 4 Justice, Hawanatu Sulaiman Kamara underscored her organization’s commitment to working with the Board to kick injustice against women out of the community.
The representative of the Western Area Rural District Council, the Deputy Chief Administrator, Peter Koroma said the Council is 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 said.
The event was climaxed with 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 facing the school. He asked for assistance in renovating a dilapidated building. He also pleaded for scholarships.