Who We Are

Melinda Janki (LLB, BCL(Oxon), LLM) is the executive director of the Justice Institute. She is an international lawyer with over 25 years experience. She was admitted to practice as a solicitor in England in 1988 and called to the Guyana Bar in 1992. Melinda was formerly in-house legal counsel at BP’s head office in London. She was a partner in de Caires Fitzpatrick & Karran (Guyana) and remains as a consultant to the firm.
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Melinda's client base has included the Government of Guyana, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, DfID, USAID, FAO, UNDP, KFW, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Consortium, the South Caucasus Pipeline Consortium and indigenous peoples. She provides legal advice and assistance to the peoples of West Papua.

Melinda has been active in changing the law in Guyana to protect the environment and to advance human rights. Article 36 of the Constitution of Guyana which states that the wellbeing of the nation depends upon preserving clean air, pure water, fertile soils and the rich diversity of plants, animals and ecosystems was taken from Melinda’s submission to the Constitution Reform Commission. She persuaded the Government of Guyana to include in the Environmental Protection Act 1996, detailed environmental impact assessment provisions and access to information which she drafted. Melinda also drafted the Protected Areas Act 2011 which sets up the national protected areas system in Guyana. Melinda was lead drafter of the Amerindian Act 2006 which provides a legal mechanism for identifying and titling of traditional Amerindian land and which recognises the traditional Amerindian toshaos and councillors as the only legitimate representatives of the Amerindian peoples. In 2007, the WaiWai people, with advice from Melinda, used the Amerindian Act 2006 to create a protected area over the whole of their territory and safeguard their land for future generations.

Dr Desmond Bermingham (BA Oxon; MA; MSc; Ed D) is a non-executive director and chair of the board for the Justice Institute Guyana. Desmond has over 25 years experience in education and international development and has a long standing relationship with Guyana. Desmond was formerly Global Education Director for Save the Children, Head of Education for the UK government Department for International Development (DFID), the Head of the Secretariat for the Education for All Fast Track Initiative at the World Bank and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Education. He has been a board member of the Commonwealth of Learning and a trustee for the UK Forum for International Education and Training (UKFIET). Desmond lives in London and visits Guyana regularly.

Valini Persaud (FCCA, MBA) is a Guyanese born non-executive director of the Justice Institute Guyana. Valini is a Certified Chartered Accountant with an MBA from London Business School and has over 30 years of in-depth experience in accounting and finance. She has been heavily involved in project finance and investment banking in the City of London as well as controlling aid projects in Latin America for the International American Development Bank IADB) in Washington. She is a past president of the Certified Women’s Society and also a trustee of Panos, a charity promoting sustainable and equitable development through dialogue and public debate in developing countries. Currently living in London, Valini is a director of Manetti Young Ltd, a niche consultancy specialising in acquisition and divestment services in the UK media sector. She still maintains strong links with Guyana including regular visits.

Michael Ellman (BA, Juris Oxon, MA) is a non-executive member of the board for the Justice Institute. Michael is a solicitor of some 50 years standing He was formerly a partner and consultant with Vizards and has been involved in international human rights work for much of his career. He was the Vice-President of FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) from 1992-2001 and is currently an Officer of the International Board. Michael has been involved with the FIDH since 1985 and has carried out human rights missions of investigation, judicial observation and training for them and other organisations in many countries of the world. Michael has lectured and taught Human Rights in the UK (Essex University and others) and carried out training missions in Kenya, Cameroon, Serbia among other countries. In 2004, Michael re-constituted with others the Solicitors International Human Rights Group (SIHRG) in the UK, and was its Chair until 2009.He continues to be a Patron of SIHRG. He has also been involved with the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, Union Internationale des Avocats among others. Michael is fluent in English, French and Italian; he also speaks Spanish, Russian, German plus a few words of Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic and Polish.

Clarindo Lucas is a member of the Wapichan people and the former Chairman of Region 9 (Rupununi). Mr Lucas is a highly respected Amerindian leader. He was elected as the Toshao (Chief) of his community of Aishalton (1984 -1988), as Regional Vice-Chairman (2001-2006) and as Chairman of the Regional Democratic Council (2006 -2011). From 1964 – 1978 Mr Lucas has worked as a teacher. In 1988 he returned to teaching and lived and worked among the WaiWai in Gunns Strip (Kanashen) until 1998. Mr Lucas is fluent in both Wapichan and English and has worked on translating the Bible into Wapichan. He also speaks WaiWai. Mr Lucas remains active in public life and advises a number of communities and organisations.

Leon Prescott is our accountant responsible for keeping track of all income,
expenditure and project finances.