New PSO vehicles to ensure justice demands of remote communities are met
Honiara, Solomon Islands (Wednesday 23 March 2022) – The need to ensure justice is delivered effectively in remote locations cannot be overstated. In an important step to uphold and promote the justice needs of Solomon Islanders, three new vehicles were officially handed over to the Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO) for use in remote communities in the provinces of Guadalcanal, Western and Makira.
The PSO has made significant strides to ensure people have equal access to justice. With the help of Provincial Paralegals and Community Legal Advocates community awareness programmes, over 20,000 Solomon Islanders have a better understanding of their rights and justice services available to them.
These initiatives are made possible through the Access to Justice Project, which is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs (MJLA) through the PSO and supported by the Australian Government.
“These three vehicles, similar to the previous one provided to us in 2020 for Auki, will enable provincial PSO officers and CLAs to deliver legal outreach through education, community awareness and service delivery straight to communities,” said Public Solicitor, George Gray, during the handover ceremony.
“All these elements work in sync so that we can provide timely, responsive and effective legal support,” said Gray.
Also acknowledging this support, the Permanent Secretary for MJLA, Dr Paul Mae, highlighted that the main challenges for rural and remote communities is the comparatively high cost associated with service delivery which are due to certain factors, such as long distances that have to be travelled by community members and service providers.”
He added, “access to justice is about ensuring that every member of the public has the ability and the means to seek justice and peaceful resolution of their problems.”
Highlighting Australia’s commitment to the justice sector in Solomon Islands, Governance Counsellor Mr Andrew Elborn said, “The Australian Government has supported the justice sector in Solomon Islands for well over a decade and we’ve stepped up that support during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“In this instance, we’re proud to partner with UNDP and the MJLA to ensure all members of society, especially women, youth and people with disabilities from remote communities can access legal services regardless of their geographic locations. We’re happy to support the PSO establish its legal outreach capability in Guadalcanal, Western and Makira with the delivery of these three new vehicles.”
Extending his appreciation for the partnership with MJLA, PSO and the Australian Government, the UNDP Country Manager, Mr Berdi Berdiyev, highlighted that “legal aid empowers people to understand and exercise their rights and helps to address root causes of exclusion and systemic biases.”
He added, “The Solomon Islands justice gap presents an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to collaboratively boost efforts where there is high demand for legal services. Due to financial, resource and capacity challenges, access to legal services is limited. Through our joint support to the PSO, we are collectively working to close this gap by bringing justice services closer to the people they are meant to serve.”
The handover ceremony of the PSO vehicles was held today, Wednesday 23 March 2022.