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The main goal of the Mediation Pilot Project is to introduce the practice of mediation to Guyana in connection with the Court system, as one possible means of addressing the problems of delay and expense.
According to Chief Justice Mr. Carl Singh, "mediation is a confidential process by which a neutral and objective mediator helps the disputing parties to negotiate and find their own solution to the dispute, but does not make any judgment on the case in question".
Justice Singh pointed out that unlike arbitration, where the arbitrator does decide the outcome, in mediation, the case is settled only if all parties are in agreement.
Both legal rights and the parties' broader concerns will be considered, to produce more creative settlements than a Court could order, the Chief Justice said, noting that the goal is to find "a win-win solution".
Justice Singh also indicated that in the Pilot Project, the mediation process will be entirely voluntary for all parties, and will be limited to civil cases that have already been filed in the High Court (or Bail Court).
He stressed that no party will be forced to attempt mediation, and if no agreement is reached, the case will continue through the normal Court process.
Mediation will take place in a private room at the High Court. Attorneys will generally accompany their clients to the mediation to advise them. If mediation is successful and a settlement is reached, the agreement will be put into writing and made a Consent Order of the Court.
"Therefore, the agreement reached via mediation will become enforceable as a Court Order," Singh declared.
A section of the audience during the launch yesterday of the Guyana Court-Connected Mediation Pilot Project at the Supreme Court Library, Georgetown. (Picture by Cullen Bess Nelson)
He also emphasised that there is "no compulsion" in the mediation process and that any type of civil case (except family law matters) may be volunteered for mediation under the Pilot Project. Certain types of cases may also be recommended by the Court for mediation under the Project, but only if the parties agree.
The Pilot Project is being carried out in collaboration with the Carter Center in Guyana with funding provided by the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID). According to a release on the project, mediation has proven to be an effective means of achieving these goals in many countries, including those in the Caribbean region.
It said the Pilot Project is being planned and implemented with the assistance of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Committee, a 17-member multi-sectoral body created in July 2003 and chaired by Chief Justice Carl Singh. The Committee includes representatives of the Judiciary, the Attorney General's Chambers, the Ministry of Local Government, the legal profession, the Private Sector Commission, the Supreme Court Registry and the University of Guyana.
Court Manager Mr. Colin Chichester will be acting as Mediation Coordinator for the duration of the Pilot Project, and as such will have primary responsibility for all communications with mediators, attorneys and parties, as well as for Project logistics and information management.
"I am convinced that this is the route to go," was the comment expressed by Professor Peter Britton, Senior Counsel, at the launching ceremony conducted yesterday at the Supreme Court Library, Georgetown. A number of legal luminaries attended the function.