Not only is mediation vital for reducing backlog, it also assists the judiciary in their mandate for greater access to and delivery of justice.
This is the position of Madame Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Chancellor of the Judiciary, who was at the time speaking at the opening ceremony of the Mediation Refresher Training Course for mediators. The workshop was held during last week in Berbice and Georgetown.
According to the Chancellor, over the years it has been recognised that although parties file actions against each other, some cases are not suited for the court process.
“For disputes between family members, spouses and contentious issues between neighbours, mediation appears to be the better route for the resolution of such matters.”
She added that in Guyana, judges have recognised that certain matters are better ventilated through mediation than through the court process.
The new Guyana Civil Proceedings Rules (CPR) 2016 makes provisions for court annexed mediation. Part 26.01 of the Rules gives the court the power to order parties to participate in mediation. Non-compliance can result in the claim being dismissed where the claimant does not appear at mediation, or the defence being struck out when the defendant does not appear at mediation.
She said that it was against this backdrop that the judiciary of Guyana along with the JURIST Project decided to embark on the refresher training, so that all mediators on the roster would be able to sharpen their skills. It was her hope that through the training, that all mediators would take away substance that would greatly assist in the conduct of their mediations.
Ms. Jamela Ali, Director, Mediation Services International Inc (MSI), which is conducting the training gave some history about mediation in Berbice and noted that in 2011, a group of persons were trained as mediators. However, she lamented that mediators in Berbice have not been given the opportunity to utilize their skill.
“Since interest in mediation in Berbice has been low key, it is not surprising that in 2018, the number of mediators have dwindled a bit, for various reasons. But what is of significance is that mediation seems not to have been developed or encouraged in Berbice and mediators not given much opportunity to utilize their skills acquired since 2011,” she said.
It is in this regard, that MSI is confident that at the end of the two-day session, the mediation skills of the participants would have been strengthened and sharpened and there will be renewed interest for mediation in Berbice so that persons in that county can utilize the newly constructed Berbice Mediation Centre and benefit from the skills of the mediators.
The aim of the workshops is to reduce the current backlog that exists in the Guyana Supreme Courts under the old Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) by enhancing the use of mediation to reduce delays. Additionally, it will enhance the mediation services in Guyana by building the capacity of staff. There will also be a judicial, legal and public awareness campaign on mediation to sensitize judges and attorneys in their roles for mediation.
The JURIST Project, which commenced in 2014, is a five-year regional Caribbean judicial reform initiative funded under an arrangement with the Government of Canada. The Project is being implemented on behalf of Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Conference of Heads of Judiciary of CARICOM, by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which was appointed by the Conference as its Regional Executing Agency.
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