Posts tagged Legal Aid Commission

SPEECH: HON. PRIME MINISTER JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA AT THE OPENING OF NAVUA LEGAL AID COMMISSION OFFICE – 05.02.15

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here in the River Town to officially open the Legal Aid Commission’s office in Navua – the third such facility I’ve had the pleasure to officially open this week alone to give the Fijian people access to the justice system.

Before I turn my attention to the benefits that this office will bring to the people of Navua and the surrounding region, I just want to briefly mention the role I would like ordinary Fijians to play in the choice of our new national flag that I announced a couple of days ago.

As I said at the opening of the Commission’s office in Nasinu, we want every Fijian to present their ideas on what our flag should look like when we remove the colonial symbols of our past – the Union Flag and the colonial shield. Every Fijian – no matter what their age, background or where they live – will be given a chance to put forward their ideas about what should replace these symbols.

As I had said, we are also going to have a competition in our schools – which will begin later this month and last for two months – so that even our young people – the future of our beloved nation – can have their say. But every Fijian will be given a chance to be heard.

And I personally look forward to seeing what we as a nation can create together. A flag for us all to love and admire as much as our existing flag, if not more so. Because we will replace the British symbols with a design that is authentically indigenous – authentically Fijian – and represents who we are today and the nation we intend to become. Rather than the nation we were 45 years ago at Independence.

We will be hearing a lot more about this issue in the days and weeks ahead. So for now, I just want to tell the people of Navua what I have told others around the country – the Legal Aid Commission never before has provided great opportunities to low-income earners to get access to the best legal advice.

I’m extremely proud that we are giving every Fijian – with an income of $15,000 or less – free legal assistance through these various offices dotted around the country. No longer do you have to worry about the cost of having to pay a commercial lawyer if you have a legal problem. No longer do you have to be scared or intimidated by the justice system.

For no cost at all – if you meet the means test we have set – you can defend yourself against a criminal charge. You can deal with family law matters, such as getting custody of children or enforcing maintenance payments. You can get a Will drafted to leave your possessions to your loved ones. You can take out letters of administration or get help with probate matters and FNPF withdrawals.

As I’ve also said before, I think giving the most vulnerable people in Fijian society better access to the law is just as important as giving them access to free schooling or free medicine. Because this is an example of the FijiFirst Government’s determination not to allow low-income earners, single parents, the elderly and those with disabilities to be disadvantaged.

I urge every person who needs a lawyer and qualifies for this program to use it. I’m also very proud that with these offices, we have created more than 100 jobs for Legal Aid Commission staff.

To the lawyers and office workers here, I have the same message I’ve had to others all over the country. Do your very best to make a real difference in the lives of the ordinary Fijians who rely on you for your expertise. Do your utmost to help them. Please don’t let them down. Because they are relying on you during what is sometimes one of the most stressful – and even fearful – times of their lives.

Over the past few years, we have steadily increased funding to the Legal Aid Commission. From $800,000 in 2012, to $2 million in 2013, to a record $4.4 million last year. This was the largest allocation for legal aid in Fiji’s history. And we have made the same amount available in 2015.

So no one can doubt our commitment to this program, nor our commitment to keep improving our level of services to those Fijians who need our assistance most.

The FijiFirst Government is proud to deliver. We are also proud to serve. And we do so with humility and with the care of the Fijian people at the very utmost of our minds. We are building a better country and a more independent country – just as we are striving to improve the lives of every citizen and strengthen their ability to be independent.

So, my fellow Fijians, it is with the greatest pleasure that I now declare the Navua Legal Aid Commission Office open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

SPEECH : PRIME MINISTER JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA AT THE OPENING OF NAUSORI LEGAL AID COMMISSION OFFICE

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today to officially open the Legal Aid Commission’s office in Nausori – the seventh such facility I’ve had the pleasure of opening to give the Fijian people access to the justice system.
Just as I have opened a series of health centres recently, this is something of a legal week for me. Because not only am I officially launching this office in Nausori, I will be opening another in Nasinu tomorrow and one in Navua on Thursday, with more to come across the country in the weeks and months to come.

In many ways, I regard my Government’s provision of equal access to justice for all Fijians as equally important as providing them with access to adequate health care. Because we all know how intimidating, inaccessible and expensive the legal system can be for many.

What we are doing with these centres is providing ordinary people with easy and ready access to the best legal advice in selected areas. And unlike having to pay a commercial law firm, all the services here are free for those who qualify for legal assistance.

These include some of the most vulnerable people in our midst – low-income earners, single parents, the elderly, and those with disabilities. The very people my Government is determined not to let fall through the legal safety net.

As noted earlier, this is the seventh Legal Aid Office I am formally opening, and there is more to come. This alone demonstrates the FijiFirst Government’s commitment to provide every Fijian with adequate access to justice and legal assistance.

The Legal Aid Commission is here to help you. Apart from family law and criminal matters, the Commission also drafts wills, takes out letters of administration, assists in probate matters and FNPF withdrawals.

I urge all of our lawyers and other staff working with the Commission to adhere to my Government’s central ethos at all times. To deliver. And to serve. You can make a real difference in the lives of ordinary people who rely on you for your expertise. So please don’t let them down.

It is noble and very satisfying work. So I also encourage support staff and lawyers to consider a career in Legal Aid. Helping an ordinary person in need – and especially someone who may not be able to access justice – can be hugely rewarding work.

Over the last few years, we have steadily increased funding to the Legal Aid Commission. From $800,000 in 2012, to $2 million in 2013, to a record $4.4 million last year. This was the largest allocation for Legal Aid in Fiji’s history. And we have made the same amount available in 2015.

So no one can doubt our commitment to this program, which is part of the FijiFirst Government’s overall objective, to keep improving our level of services to all Fijians, including the most vulnerable among us.

Making a tangible and real commitment to helping all in our society is not only just fair but it is a sign that a nation is being strong about itself, a nation recognizing its fallibilities but being confident to deal with them openly and in a transparent manner. This is the hall-mark of a truly democratic, inclusive and modern nation. I will speak more about this tomorrow and how we can further strengthen our place on the world stage, in this respect.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I now have great pleasure in declaring the Nausori Legal Aid Commission office open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at the Opening of the Nadi Legal Aid Office

Bula Vinaka and good morning to all of you present here today to mark this important occasion. It is my pleasure to be here this morning to open the new Nadi Office of the Legal Aid Commission.

Today marks another solid step in my Government’s efforts to ensure that all Fijians have equal access to justice system.

Nadi is one of the largest town centres in Fiji and the fastest growing. It also has a substantial surrounding rural population. With the opening of this Office, the residents of Nadi and its greater area will no longer have to travel far to seek legal aid assistance. We are removing the obstacles of time, distance, and expense.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my Government remains firmly committed to providing equal access to the justice system for every Fijian, in particular for those Fijians who are unable to afford the services of a lawyer.

Without proper legal counsel, a person may not get the justice he or she deserves. Equal access to justice should mean just that—justice that is readily available to all. It must be a reality, not just a hope.

Some talk about the rule of law without necessarily understanding that a key component of this principle must include equal access to the justice system. Conversely how can we talk about substantive justice when there is no access to the justice system for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable?

Without legal counsel, Court matters get delayed, and this is at the cost of tax payers.

But beyond the cost, we know that justice delayed is justice denied. Legal Aid services and Court matters need to be expedited so that justice is sure, deliberate, and as prompt as possible.

At the end of the day, providing equal access to justice to all Fijians is the responsibility of the Government. In order for Legal Aid to work for the people, to do its job, it has to be adequately funded.

It is for this reason, my Government has ensured that the Legal Aid Commission has the staff, facilities, and funds it needs to assist people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer.

As the need for legal services in the community has increased, my Government has steadily increased its funding to the Legal Aid Commission, which now employs 25 lawyers, and 28 corporate and support staff. The total number of staff, I am told, will soon increase to more than 64.

This new Nadi Office of the Legal Aid Commission is a part of that expansion. It is modern and well resourced. It has facilities to accommodate clients wishing to make legal aid applications as well as separate interview rooms for clients to protect their privacy and ensure confidentiality.

The Legal Aid Commission has permanent offices in Suva, Ba, Lautoka, and Labasa. The Nausori Office has opened doors and shall be officially opened by me within the next month. This morning, the Legal Aid Commission opens its doors in Nadi. This afternoon, a new Legal Aid Commission office will also open in Rakiraki. And we have plans to open an office in Sigatoka in the new year.

I am pleased to tell you that the Legal Aid Commission is also reviewing its current systems and procedures to improve service delivery. With the review of the eligibility criteria, more Fijians will become entitled to Legal Aid assistance, and applications for legal aid will be processed more expeditiously.

During my tour of the country in early 2010, many people had complained that there was little provision in Fiji for civil legal aid services.  I took immediate steps to satisfy their concerns, and as a result, the Legal Aid Commission began providing legal assistance in areas of civil law–such as drafting of Wills, taking out letters of administration, probate matters, and assisting with FNPF withdrawals in absence of nomination.  The people of Fiji now receive these services free of charge from Legal Aid.

My Government is committed to assisting the poor and disadvantaged of Fiji, and one of the most important ways we do this is through Legal Aid.

The Legal Aid Commission has established its place in the law and justice sector and is here to stay. I can assure all Fijians that my Government will remain committed to the cause of this noble organisation, which gives access to justice system to the most vulnerable in our society.

I would like to express my appreciation to the Attorney-General and the Solicitor General’s Chambers for their commitment to seeing justice expanded in Fiji, and to the Legal Aid Commission Board and the staff for their passion and dedication in serving Fijians.

As I have stated when I leave here today, I will travel to the province of Ra, where I will open the Legal Aid Commission’s Rakiraki Office in the afternoon. Opening two new Legal Aid Offices makes this a wonderful day for me personally and for the people of Nadi and Rakiraki.

And now I have much pleasure in officially declaring open the Nadi Legal Aid Commission Office.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at the Opening of the Rakiraki Legal Aid Office

Bula Vinaka and good afternoon to you all. I was in Nadi this morning, where I officially opened the Legal Aid Commission’s Nadi Office.  Having done that, I am here this afternoon to preside over the opening of the new Rakiraki Office of the Legal Aid Commission.

The recent natural disasters have caused deep personal losses and injury as well as property damage. They have caused a great deal of sorrow.

Through these difficult times, we all have stood together, united. But we can leave all this behind today. This is a moment of joy for you all as we open an office in the heart of this town that will serve the people of Rakiraki.

This is a moment that the entire country shares with the community of Rakiraki. You may feel isolated from the others by being far away from other cities and towns, but you are always in our heart.

The opening of an office of the Legal Aid Commission in Rakiraki stands as proof that my Government remains firmly committed to providing equal access to justice for every Fijian, in particular for those Fijians who are unable to afford the services of a lawyer. This is a Government for all the people. It should also reassure you that we will never neglect Rakiraki, and we certainly have not forgotten you.

I understand that all these years, the people of Rakiraki have had to travel to Lautoka or Ba to access the services of Legal Aid. Not only was this time consuming, it was expensive and at times a hindrance.

With the opening of this Office, you will no longer have to travel far to seek the services of Legal Aid.

It is now available practically at your doorsteps. And this means that you are more likely to seek the expert legal assistance that you need.

You will not have to leave your families and farms for the better part of a day each time you need to get legal advice or assistance.

During my tour of the country in 2010 including my visit to Rakiraki, you raised concerns, amongst other things, that there was little assistance offered to the community of Rakiraki in the area of civil law.

I took immediate steps to satisfy their concerns, and as a result, the Legal Aid Commission began providing legal assistance in areas of civil law such as drafting of Wills, taking out letters of administration, probate matters, and assisting with FNPF withdrawals in absence of nomination.  The people of Fiji now receive these services free of charge from Legal Aid.

Over the past 6 years, as the need for legal services in the community has increased, my Government has steadily increased its funding to the Legal Aid Commission, which now employs 25 lawyers, and 28 corporate and support staff.

The total number of staff, I am told, will soon increase to more than 64.

This new Rakiraki Office of the Legal Aid Commission is a part of that expansion. It is modern and well resourced. It has facilities to accommodate clients wishing to make legal aid applications as well as separate interview rooms for clients to protect their privacy and ensure confidentiality.

The Legal Aid Commission has permanent offices in Suva, Ba, Lautoka, and Labasa. The Nausori office has opened doors and shall be officially opened by me within the next month. This morning, the Legal Aid Commission opens its doors in Nadi. This afternoon, a new Legal Aid Commission office opens its doors in Rakiraki. And we have plans to open an office in Sigatoka in the new year.

I am pleased to tell you that the Legal Aid Commission is also reviewing its current systems and procedures to improve service delivery. With the review of the eligibility criteria, more Fijians will become entitled to Legal Aid assistance, and applications for legal aid will be processed more expeditiously.

Some talk about the rule of law without necessarily understanding that a key component of this principle must include equal access to the justice system. Conversely how can we talk about substantive justice when there is no access to the justice system for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable?

The opening of the Rakiraki Office represents a firm commitment by my Government not only to provide quality legal aid services to those in need, but to seek ways to guarantee those services. We do that by bringing those services to as many local communities as possible. If legal services are easy to find and use, people will use them.

I would like to express my appreciation to the Attorney-General and the Solicitor General’s Chambers for their commitment to seeing justice expanded in Fiji, and to the Legal Aid Commission Board and the staff for their passion and dedication in serving Fijians.

I now have much pleasure in opening the Rakiraki Legal Aid Commission Office.

Vinaka Vakalevu, Thank you.