Jamiyah, PA setting up online legal clinics

One of Singapore's oldest free legal clinics will set up computer facilities at two community centres to bring its service to the backyard of residents.

Its iCounsel kiosks will be found at Kaki Bukit Community Centre and Eunos Community Club, where residents of any race, and particularly the needy and frail, can speak to the lawyers via video-conferencing.

The move is a first by the clinic's organiser, Muslim voluntary welfare organisation Jamiyah, which is partnering the People's Association (PA) for the pilot project - Singapore's first online legal clinic for the community.

Said Dr H. M. Saleem, a vice-president of Jamiyah: "The clinic has been around for almost 40 years and we need to look at how we can help people in a different way. This is one of the ways."

The service will start next month, on Feb 24.

Those seeking advice can first register online at Jamiyah's website and submit details of the case. They can also pick one of Jamiyah's volunteer lawyers and state whether they prefer, say, a Malay- or Mandarin-speaking lawyer, or one who knows syariah law to handle Muslim divorce and inheritance cases. A video-conferencing session will then be fixed at the community centre of their choice.

The iCounsel clinics will run every second and fourth Tuesday of a month, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

Jamiyah president Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar told reporters ahead of the launch yesterday evening that he hopes the new service will help about 40 people every month.

Both the Kaki Bukit and Eunos community centres are in opposition-held Aljunied GRC.

According to Kaki Bukit grassroots leader Wong Yang, about 70 per cent of the ward's residents live in three-room or smaller flats. Many are elderly.

One in four residents is also Malay, compared with one in seven nationwide.

Should the pilot project prove popular, the PA plans to work with Jamiyah to expand the service to more community clubs across Singapore, said the senior director of PA's membership and community partnership division Jasmine Kwok.

"The partnership between PA and Jamiyah in providing the first online legal service in the community is the perfect example of how community partners value-add to the efforts of PA and its grassroots networks to benefit the residents."

Meanwhile, Jamiyah's 38-year-old legal clinic will continue to hold its face-to-face sessions at its headquarters in Geylang Lorong 12 twice a week for people who prefer to see a lawyer in person.

The clinic, open to any member of the public, has drawn people of various races and faiths.

Since it opened in 1976, more than 11,000 people have turned to it for help.

Dr Hasbi hopes that with iCounsel, "more lawyers will come forward to provide their time and expertise to give back to the community".


This article was first published on Jan 24, 2015.
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