I refer to Minister Priya Manickchand’s letter in the Kaieteur News dated March 28, 2012 and Part 1 of my reply to that letter. With reference to Minister Manickchand’s assertions regarding grant funds received by the Linden Legal Aid Centre, financial information provided by the accounting firm of Ram & McRae for the years 2008-2010 in response to my query is hereunder reproduced verbatim. The company was registered on September 30th, 2007 and we received no grant funds in 2007.
|Linden Legal Aid Centre Inc.|
|Schedule of Income Received|
|As per financial statements for the years 2008-2010|
As a result of the fire at the Christianburg Magistrate’s Court building in April, 2011 which completely destroyed our offices, our 2011 audit has been delayed because of the need to obtain replacement receipts and other documents relating to our financial transactions for the first four months of the year. However, I categorically repudiate Minister Manickchand’s assertion that UNICEF-Guyana provided us with the sum of nine million dollars for the period April 2011 to December 2012 and I reiterate the fact that our last grant period for funds donated by UNICEF-Guyana ended in January, 2012.
The directors of the Linden Legal Aid Centre have always acknowledged that the Centre owes its existence to the funding support provided by USAID and UNICEF-Guyana and have repeatedly expressed gratitude both publicly and privately for such support. Grant support is obviously different from taxpayer money and is usually project-based (and therefore temporary), and geared toward capacity-building and the promotion of specific national and international goals. Aid agencies are usually mindful of their own funding limitations and constraints and concerned about the sustainability of the organizations receiving such funds.
The provision of legal aid is a long-term process as cases typically take years to be completed and the failure to provide continuous legal services due to the lack of funding can result in irreparable harm to unsuspecting clients who cannot afford to go elsewhere. Only taxpayer money allocated by parliament on a regular basis can guarantee the long-term sustainability of the Linden Legal Aid Centre.
As an attorney, Minister Manickchand is fully aware that a legal aid centre cannot be run on a “from time to time” basis. She is also undoubtedly aware that the Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic (GLAC) was receiving funding support from USAID before and while she was advocating for the first major annual allocation of money for legal aid by parliament in 2007. Notwithstanding this yearly grant of taxpayer money, GLAC continues to publicly acknowledge the receipt of grants from UNICEF-Guyana for its juvenile justice program to this day, thereby demonstrating that donor support can be a valuable complement to the more reliable governmental support.
Minister Manickchand’s recollections of discussions relating to the provision of legal services in Linden are at odds with mine. Readers are directed to the information provided in the “About Us” link on our website. In 2007 when I visited Linden (my hometown) during a sabbatical I saw long lines of people waiting in the Christianburg Magistrate’s Court building in vain for “the lawyer.” Personnel from the probation department which was housed in the same building can enlighten those who are interested in finding out about the service provided by GLAC in Linden at this time. In addition to population size, the level of violence, economic deprivation, unemployment and the resulting social disorganization in a community are crucial factors in determining the need for legal aid.
We have always insisted that Linden was in dire need of a legal aid centre and agreed to provide the service, but we were definitely expecting governmental financial support at that time. GLAC sympathized with our financial predicament and graciously provided advice and training for our staff. USAID also encouraged us to work collaboratively with GLAC and I personally received training from Ms. Gaitree Persaud of GLAC whose guidance has been immensely helpful over the years, but no money or services in kind was ever offered by GLAC or anyone else.
I first met Minister Manickchand (and her wonderful secretary) in 2007 and despite our differences of opinion, I was impressed by the energy and obvious commitment she displayed in promoting the causes on her agenda. We will always be grateful to her and the Ministry of Human Services for hosting the official launching of the Linden Legal Aid Centre in 2009. I hope the Minister will take my responses to her letter in the spirit in which they are offered.
We will not continue to debate the Minister or anyone else in the print media. Persons wishing to obtain or verify financial or other information relating to the operations of the Linden Legal Aid Centre may direct their enquiries to our registered office which is situated at the Linmine Office Complex, Casuarina Drive, Mackenzie, Linden (telephone number 444-2851; fax number 444-2848) or leave a message for us on our website. All enquiries will be answered courteously and promptly. Thank you.
Linden Legal Aid Centre
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