Honiara, Solomon Islands – Twelve (12) Community Legal Advocates (CLAs) who are based in the provinces of Malaita (North and South), Western (Seghe, Shortlands, Vella la Vella and Kolombangara) and Temotu (Santa Cruz and Lomlom) have now fine-tuned their skills in basic law, legal rights, awareness raising, mediation and problem solving following the conclusion of their nine-day refresher training this week.
The work of the CLAs has benefitted over 9000 individuals whose access to the formal legal system is limited by their physical access, awareness and high costs borne by both individuals in accessing services and by government in supplying sufficient quantity and quality of service delivery to the outlying provinces.
In their community awareness programmes, the CLAs provide information on the Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO). The PSO is the equivalent of Legal Aid Office in other countries and provides free legal representation and advice to those that need it.
Some of the usual questions asked by community members in remote locations include, can we report a crime to the PSO? Does the Police have the same responsibilities as the PSO? Does the PSO represent both parties (the offender and the victim) in any issues?
The training which ended on Tuesday 30 March, was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Access Justice Project, which is supported by the Australian Government in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs through the PSO.
“By definition, CLAs are grassroot advocates who use the knowledge and skills built from training such as this to seek concrete solutions from formal justice institutions,” said Access to Justice Project Manager, Grace Kiernan.
“As part of their primary role, the CLAs provide a PSO presence at the rural community level, linking the community to the formal justice system which benefits those most marginalized.”
She added, “Depending on a given case, they apply tools and skills which include mediation, education, advocacy and referrals, to justice providers and the PSO as a public facing justice institution of the Solomon Islands Government.”