Munda, Solomon Islands (16 September 2021) – More people in the Western Province, will be able to access legal information and services with the opening of the new Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO) branch in Munda.
Located inside the Western Provincial Government building, the new office in Munda means that more people will now be able to access a range of free legal services should they have issues related to criminal law, logging or mining, and customary land, civil law, including workers and employment compensation and family matters including divorce, adoption, protection orders, maintenance and custody matters.
The opening of the new office was made possible through partnership between the Western Provincial Government Office and the National Government with the support of the Access to Justice Project, supported by the Australian Government and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs (MJLA) through the PSO.
Speaking at the officiating ceremony, the Provincial Minister for State, Local Government, Justice and Church Affairs, Hon. Goldie Nunala said, “The opening of the new PSO in Munda is reflective of our commitment to facilitating effective and efficient service delivery for our constituents and greater access to justice at the provincial and community levels.”
He added, “With a population of 94,209 people (as per 2019 census) the opening of this second office in Western Province will greatly reduce geographical barriers people face when attempting to access justice.”
Highlighting the importance of partnership, the Deputy Public Solicitor, Martha Manaka said, “Today marks the culmination of the collaborative efforts between our important stakeholders to ensure the establishment of the PSO branch in Munda.”
Speaking in pidgin, she added, “Mission blo mifala hem for defendim na rights blo oketa disadvantaged people lo Solomon Islands. Diswan hem meanim that people bae save accessim professional and accessible legal services lo level wea hem open, efficient and accountable lo people wea kam kasem Public Solicitors Office for accessim services blo hem.
The Permanent Secretary for MJLA, Dr Paul Mae echoed the same sentiments and said, “Access to Justice is a Key Priority Area for the MJLA. It is focused on ensuring that all people in Solomon Islands irrespective of ethnicity, place of origin, place of residence, religion, age, gender or disability have access to appropriate justice services.”
He added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of innovative legal empowerment approaches, such as the deployment of the community legal advocates and provincial paralegals, which are essential to enable ordinary people, especially those in remote areas, the most vulnerable, which include our women, children and people with disabilities to use the law to find concrete solutions to their pressing justice problems.
With the support of the Access to Justice Project, the new office is now equipped with office equipment, that includes laptops, computer screens, printer and stationary supplies with the aim of facilitating efficient client management.
Also adding his congratulatory note during the opening ceremony was Australia High Commission’s, Governance Counsellor, Andrew Elborn.
“I would also like to add my welcome to you all and a congratulations to the partnerships displayed by Public Solicitor’s Office, the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, the Western Provincial Government and UNDP in their efforts to enhance access to justice for all”, said Elborn.
He added, “The ability and the opportunity for people to interact with a lawyer during the handling of their case is something that can be taken for granted by those in Honiara, but it can be almost unattainable for those that don’t have the resources or the ability to walk into a PSO office.”
The UNDP Solomon Islands Country Manager, Berdi Berdiyev highlighted some main achievements of the Access to Justice Project and reinforced the key messages shared by the other speakers.
“We at UNDP are delighted to work with our project partners to support this progress and look forward to reaching further milestones together in the pursuance of the overall common goal of accessible justice services for the people of Solomon Islands,” said Berdiyev.
“We are pleased to note that since the deployment of the A2J Paralegals and Community Legal Advocates to Western Province, they have reached 158 communities and conducted legal awareness to 7,233 people in the province.”
He added, “The launch of this office in Munda will support the provision of efficient legal aid services to those in need and enable the PSO to rise to meet the demand as the community awareness efforts continue. This synergy builds public confidence in the justice system which in turn encourages use of public institutions and acts as an enabler for a peaceful society.”
Following the official opening of the new office, people in Munda and surrounding communities will be able to discuss their legal issues with PSO staff members in a confidential setting.