By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
CHIEF Justice Sir Gibbs Salika has again raised his concern over the backlog of cases in the National Court which, he says, is resulting in the overcrowding of jails.
“We have many cases still pending at the National Court for about seven years now,” he said.
“In Buimo jail in Morobe, two suspects have been listed for trial at the National Court for the past seven years.
“Unfortunately, they can’t be brought to trial because both are believed to be mentally retarded.
“And there are not many psychiatrists in the country.
“The few that we have are attending to their own patients.
“So they can’t attend to the suspects to check their mental state.
“The suspects have to be mentally stable in order to attend trial.
“They have been lingering in jail.”
Sir Gibbs said that new acting judges would be tasked to check out the outstanding cases listed for trial that were still pending before the National Court.
The nine new acting judges are Laura Wawun Kuvi, Irene Ann Mugugia , Gertrude Tamate , Tracy Ganaii, Nerrie Eliakim, Camillus Jacob Sambua , Emma Wurr, Gerhard Linge and Michael Thoke.
Sir Gibbs said: “Judges are expected to complete their cases on time. We have our own time table.
“When you hear a case, you must hand down the decision as soon as possible.
“I want judges who can do that.
“Who can hear cases and make decisions on a timely basis.
“Currently, we have issues with some judges who delay their cases.
“So, I’m going for lawyers who can work hard and for longer hours, as judges.
“The current acting judges that are being sworn are from various experiences in law practice and have been appointed on merit.”
Sir Gibbs also expressed concern about misappropriation and official corruption cases involving public office holders that are still pending before the National Court.
“I really don’t know but in PNG we have developed a culture that any one holding public office under investigation, he fights tooth and nail to occupy it, whereas in other countries, leaders immediately step aside,” he said.
“Although it’s not compulsory, they feel that they have to step aside till the outcome of the case.
“But in PNG it is a culture, that it is our birthright.
“It should never be like that.
“Once your character has been questioned, you have to step aside.”
Sir Gibbs said it was the highest number of acting judges’ sworn in at any one time.
“This time we had nine,” he said.
“The last highest number of acting judges sown in was eight – during former chief justice Sir Salamo Injia’s time. These acting judges will serve only for 12 months and if they can perform, then they will be confirmed.”
Sir Gibbs said that they now have 37 full time judges excluding the acting judges.
By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK