By Kebba Secka
Ahmed Kemo Ceesay, Executive Secretary of National Agency for Legal Aid (NALA), has confirmed to this medium that his lawyers have agreed to end their sit-down strike after the intervention of the Chief Justice.
The lawyers on their part confirmed the same story, adding that they have resumed court appearances for their clients.
The lawyers said in addition to the Chief Justice’s intervention, they were saddened by how the strike impacted on their clients’ cases. They said some of their clients called them and, in some instances, cried before them about the impact of the strike on their lives.
The senior legal officer of the agency, Deo Patience Candiaa, said she was emotional after she visited one of her clients at the Remind Wing in Mile II who cried in her presence, appealing for them to end their strike.
Both the senior legal officer and her colleagues said since they are concerned about the plight of their clients, they deem it fitting to end their sit-down strike. Therefore, they urged the relevant authorities to endeavor and address their concerns within the shortest period of time.
The lawyers pointed out that the industrial action is only suspended on condition that the authorities will handle their demands appropriately.
On Thursday July 08th, Bekai Saidy, one of the strikers, appeared before the Bundung Court while Kebba Baldeh and Gloria appeared before Banjul High Court.
According to them, their struggle to appear before various courts within the jurisdiction confirmed their resumption to work despite persistent mobility constraints.
The executive Secretary of NALA in a telephone conversation on Thursday July 1st refuted some of the allegations made against him by his legal staff.
He described the allegation of vehicles inaccessibility and allocation as ”not entirely correct and that they do not reflect the practice on the ground.”
On the allegation about printing machines, Kemo accepted the allegation regarding inadequate printers and described it as a challenge which his management is trying to resolve.
Commenting on the issue of pay rise, Mr. Ceesay said both management and the agency’s board of directors had engaged the Minister of Justice and the President to resolve the disparity in salary pay scale between the state lawyers.
It was on Thursday July 1st 2021 that the Agency’s Legal Unit began what they described as an indefinite sit-down strike unless issues of mobility, pay rise equal to their counterpart at the Ministry of Justice and available printing machines are addressed.
Among these three demands, it is only a printing machine that is confirmed to have been bought by July 8th and others remained unsolved at the time of going to press.
In a petition by the legal staff of the agency addressed to the executive secretary of NALA and copied to Board of Directors of NALA, Office of the President, Attorney General and Minister of Justice and National Assembly Select Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters before the strike began, the lawyers demanded to be accorded the same pay rise as their counterparts at the Ministry of Justice with drawback pay from the month of January, 2021, printer and mobility.
They claimed to be using their own money to print court documents simply because they do not have access to a printer. The lawyers in that letter referred the executive secretary to the minutes of the Legal Unit meeting that was held on 4th June, 2021 at NALA’s Head office, where the officers highlighted their frustrations as workers who deserved dignity.
For the benefit of the readership, NALA is an institution established by an Act of National Assembly since 2008 tasked with the responsibility to provide advice and legal services to children and adults who are charged with capital offences.