A-G says some FLS members are ‘monetary driven’

Attorney General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (right) speaks with Chief Justice Kamal Kumar at the Regional Legal Aid Conference in Natadola. Picture: REINAL CHAND

SOME members of the private Bar, including the Fiji Law Society, are “monetary driven” with no effort made to help develop a legal aid culture among its members, says Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

In his opening remarks at the inaugural Pacific Regional Legal Aid Commission Conference in Sigatoka yesterday, he said some members of the Fiji Law Society had given up their responsibility to the court in favour of monetary gain.

“It is important for us to understand to be able to have access to justice, the private Bar or legal practitioners must play a pivotal role,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“For those of you who are developing a legal aid culture, I would urge you to draw in the private Bar and private lawyers right from the beginning.

“Unfortunately in Fiji, we have not been able to develop that culture.

“In fact, that culture has been quite seriously affected.”

The A-G highlighted an instance where the private Bar was not willing to work with government legal agencies.

“For example, a couple of years ago with the assistance of the UK and the EU, we had a study team that went across to the UK and another European country and we had lawyers from the Legal Aid Commission, from the Attorney-General’s office and also from the Fiji Law Society.

“When they came back they were supposed to work together and work with police in particular on the first-hour procedure because as you know that is where our issues arise in terms of the rights of the people who are brought before the criminal justice system.

“Unfortunately, when the project commenced from 2011 to 2016, the private Bar, in this case, the Fiji Law Society that represents some practitioners asked how much are we getting paid for representing people?

“That, of course, is a huge unfortunate event because you cannot weigh your ability to access the criminal justice system or your ability to participate as a lawyer and in principle, you actually have a duty to the court. “You are now just monetary driven.”

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