Taking more social services to rural communities
Guyana Chronicle
February 7, 2003

Related Links: Articles on health
Letters Menu Archival Menu

SOCIAL work officials and other citizens must have greeted with relief, the recent announcement by Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon that Government would be allocating a $5M subvention to the Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic. The cash, we are told, is a temporary arrangement that would serve to keep the Legal Aid Clinic operational up to mid-year. Dr Luncheon also reiterated that during the coming weeks, a comprehensive plan of action will be formulated to provide legal aid services for poor and indigent Guyanese countrywide. This plan would involve the utilisation of private legal practitioners as well as firms, and management from the restructured services. The decision to come up with a plan to serve Guyanese countrywide was taken following a meeting between President Bharrat Jagdeo and representatives of the Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic.

On Wednesday, January 29, 2003, Dr Luncheon had commented to the media corps at his weekly post-Cabinet briefing on the “extremely parlous situation” confronting both the Legal Aid Clinic and the facility administered by the Help and Shelter agency for the sanctuary of abused women and their children. The Help and Shelter agency had just days before announced that its safe haven for women had to be closed because the agency had run out of funds for its operations. “In the case of legal aid, funding has been provided in an interim, a temporary measure, during which time Cabinet’s intention is to provide legal aid to a larger cross-section of Guyanese poor and indigent; definitely to move beyond Georgetown and to provide support to other Regions,” Dr Luncheon had said. He had reported then that with respect to Help and Shelter, Cabinet had requested the Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security to provide a plan of action outlining a proposed way forward to have state reporting and the broad community inputs to have a truly comprehensive arrangement for supporting the victims of domestic violence.

Government’s decision to come to the rescue of these two foundering non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is commendable. The suggestion to expand the services of these agencies so that residents in far-flung villages and hamlets could avail themselves of these social services is also to be lauded. The decision to extend legal aid services as well as temporary havens for those in need is also in keeping with the administration’s thrust of decentralising, whenever practicable, all those official and social services to communities, some of which are situated scores, even hundreds of miles away from the Capital. The Guyana land mass is huge by any standard, and not many persons on the coastland have an understanding of, or appreciation of the great distances over savannahs, mountains and huge rivers that some residents have to cover just to be in the City for a child’s birth certificate or a legal document concerning land deals or commerce. Then, there is the question of costs to the traveller. How many villagers could afford to travel to Georgetown at an appointed time for a legal document, perhaps only to hear from a disinterested public functionary that they must “check back next week”.

Just under two years ago, a multipurpose government centre was commissioned at Anna Regina. At that facility, residents from all areas of the Essequibo Coast are now able to obtain legal documents such as passports and other travel documents, birth and death certificates. Formerly, the processes to obtain these documents involved days of expensive and time-consuming travel to the City. If the comprehensive plans fructify for countrywide legal aid services and the establishment of places of sanctuary, then the victimised poor and indigent in rural areas would have recourse to the justice system, and battered women in all the Regions will no longer be forced to endure torments from spouses, but they would have a safe and healing environment in which they could begin to rebuild their lives.

Site Meter