Victims of violence need justice not settlements

Editorial

PAPUA New Guineans, men in particular, have a habit of downplaying gender issues especially when it involves women and children.
It is a said reality that we can say all the right things and make all the honourable commitments but in practice quite a few seem to forget that these are not things one can just brush under the carpet when it suits them.
A case in point happened last week and no doubt there are examples of men wilfully ignoring their responsibilities and taking the easy way out when it comes to dealing with gender issues the most critical being violence
and abuse of women and those less capable of defending themselves.
Thankfully there are those who take action to correct fundamentally flawed attitudes and send a clear message to people in the community that women’s issues are important and should be treated as such – and not just paid lip service.
A magistrate refused to withdraw a case of a man charged
with sexual touching after that
individual had the gall to request the matter be settled out of
court.
The individual, whose name need not be mentioned here, made the application to Waigani Committal Court Magistrate Cosmas Bidar for his case to be settled among the families involved.
But Magistrate Bidar was having none of that.
He held that only the complainant had the right to withdraw the case and not third parties as it were.
The man stated his reason bringing the family into his argument stating: “I would like to talk to the complainant and her family to come to an agreement and settle the matter back at the settlement I’m living in.”
One of the biggest problems in this country when it comes to crimes and abuse committed against women and children and even men, is that it can very quickly become a matter of the family, clan, tribe and community and generally the wider society and the right of the individual ends up taking a back seat to what the perceived greater good is.
That is a danger to personal justice and dilutes in a way the seriousness of the action perpetrated against an individual.
The gentleman in question needs to realise that if his push
for the matter to be settled out of court is not his decision or the family of the victim or even
the court to make – it is the complainant herself who can make the call.
An introduction of another party to that decision making process can only be in an advisory role
unless the victim is a minor in which case the parents or legal guardians have that right and privilege.
It also goes against the course of natural justice if a matter or better yet a crime is committed and society allows people to circumvent the law by settling out of court.
The point here is a crime has been committed or is alleged to have been committed and law enforcement must investigate the allegation and come to a proper surmise about the veracity of the claim.
That is justice.
Police prosecutor Constable Joseph Sangam disagreed with the man’s request. Sangam said the matter was already in court and in its final stage.
He said the case should not be withdrawn and it should continue to its finality.
With Port Moresby police hierarchy recently stating that they wanted to see more arrests and charges turn into convictions,
it does support what Sangam
said.
However, one hopes that these are just secondary considerations and the rights of the victim are at the forefront of any decision or point made.
Making arrests and getting convictions is one thing but the rights of the complainant should be preserved at all times.
Is not that the whole point of the law – to serve and to protect those who in of need it.
Magistrate dismissed the request by the man and ordered the continuation of the matter until it exhausted the legal process.
People in this country have to get away from the mentality that there are other ways (compensation demands, tribal fighting) to resolve issues of a criminal nature.
There is not.
The only way is through the court system.

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