by Zena Henry
Government has approved over $6M to aid the two-year long defunct Linden Legal Aid Clinic. The announcement was made by Minister of State Joseph Harmon who expressed Cabinet’s intention to upkeep the subvention- based agency.
Harmon said a “spirited” representation was made by Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence as she requested the $6,350,000 that was granted to the agency. Some two years back, the Clinic’s location was destroyed by a fire that also saw the destruction of the Christianburg Magistrates’ Court.
The Regional Probation Department and the Linden Legal Aid Centre were situated in the top and bottom flat of the burnt two storey structure respectively. Since that fire, information from the Georgetown Legal Aid office is that the body, after wrapping up existing cases, was unable to meaningfully conduct any other work especially since they no longer had a location and state assistance was not provided to the Linden office.
Harmon explained, however, that the $6.3M would go towards the centre conducting work until year end since it was reported to Demerara Waves that the body had recently located a new building to house its operations. It was also reported by State media that during Minister Lawrence’s visited to Linden along with her Junior Minister Simona Broomes, they were able to meet with the former defunct Legal Aid Committee where they were also given the good news that a new building was located and that furniture was available to see the Clinic’s door re-opening soon.
Minister Lawrence said, “That is good for us, because that was one of our concerns; offering legal aid services to the people of Linden.”
Harmon announced that, “Cabinet directed that there be a review of all legal aid clinics across the country to ensure that legal services are provided to the poor and vulnerable.”
Company Secretary, Joan Ward-Mars weeks ago explained via newspaper letter columns that the Linden Legal Aid Centre is not funded by the government. She said that despite “tireless efforts” by Linden representatives to raise awareness regarding the inequities in the disbursement of public funds for legal aid, “the Linden Legal Aid Centre has never received a penny from the former Government of Guyana.”
She said, “The Centre was destroyed by fire during the Linden protest in July 2012 and all efforts by the Minister of Human Services to provide funding to facilitate the reopening of the Centre have been thwarted.”
The Clinic was established with support and funding from UNICEF and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with the Government of Guyana to provide legal services to poor and vulnerable persons.