The National – Thursday, December 9, 2010
By JULIA DAIA BORE
PNG’s village court officials, numbering more than 14,000 and handle more than 500,000 cases each year across the country, must be remunerated reasonably, the Alotau conference on underlying law concluded last week.
Participants agreed that the government would be approached and it would be brought to their attention through a proposal to ensure there is an increase in the village courts officials’ salaries, which was currently, well below minimal level.
This resolution was one of many others reached by the recent conference following the deliverance of a paper by the chief of village courts, Bruce Didimus last Thursday.
Didimus said the village courts chairman received K32 monthly, village deputy chairman, K29; and the village peace officers, K24.
He said despite this, the officials, many of whom were clan and tribal leaders in their own rights, continued their dedicated service to maintain law and order in their villages throughout the country.
He said these dedicated community leaders worked tirelessly without any demands of the government for higher remuneration for their roles as peace and law enforcing officers in all our communities in the country.
Often they were not paid for several months but this did not deter or stop these dedicated community leaders from performing their roles, Didimus said.
He said the village courts were set up by an act of parliament in 1973 under section 172 of the constitution.
He added that the “Underlying Law Act 2000 and Custom Recognition Act 1963
are also relevant to the powers and jurisdiction of village courts”.
“However, the fundamental principles for village court decisions rest in the modern rights enshrined in the constitution.
“These rights include some basic rights related to safety and security in their homes and society, freedom of movement, freedom from inhuman treatment, and property rights.
“They also include rights related to equality and participation and human development.
“Village courts must operate within the principles of the constitution,” Didimus said, adding that there was a total of 1,400 village courts across PNG and each of these courts had up to 12 officials.
He said the village courts “are the closest form of justice to the community and are a big part of the restorative justice pillar of the law and justice sector strategic fframework”.