By MIRIAM ZARRIGA and GLORIA BAUAI
JUSTICE Minister Bryan Kramer says judges have discretionary powers to impose the maximum penalty on those found guilty of murder and other violent crimes.
“Whether sentencing a man or woman to death or life imprisonment, judges make decisions on penalties after considering the circumstances and facts of their cases,” he added.
Kramer was commenting on cases of murder and violent crime cases in which judges in Port Moresby and Lae have imposed hefty sentences, more than 10 years jail and life imprisonment, in recent weeks.
The cases include:
- ON Friday, Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika jailed three men (Saku Dove, 30, Skoke Kuruka, 28, and Damare Ipi, 28) for life for executing two men for sorcery in Badili’s Muniogo Block on Oct 17, 2016;
- On July 22, Justice Lawrence Kangwia jailed Gad Yakapus, 31, 25 years, for a sorcery-related killing in Lae’s Biwat Compound on Aug 24, 2014;
- ON Friday, Justice Teresa Berrigan jailed Esther Eroane, 39, fifteen years for killing her husband’s mistress in the Morobe Transit car park in Kwadi, off Angau Drive in Port Moresby on Oct 28, 2018;
- ON Friday, Justice Berrigan jailed Shamilla Kapoi one year for killing her husband who had threatened to kill her during a quarrel in Tokarara on May 20;
- ON July 30, Justice John Kaumi jailed Robin Godwin Audari Borezi, 42, for life for using a homemade “chastity belt” to bound his sister-in-law, causing grievous bodily harm and raping her in Lae between Nov 1 and 30, 2017; and
- ON July 21, Chief Justice Sir Gibbs jailed ward councillor Sent Koip, 38, 30 years with hard labour for shooting dead Stenic Whome Poiya, 25, a University of Papua New Guinea graduand, in Jiwaka’s Kindeng market on Dec 14, 2019.
However, Kramer said Parliament played a key role in enacting and passing the laws to determine the maximum penalty the courts may impose on those found guilty.
Meanwhile, Evangelical Lutheran Church Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG) Head Bishop Rev Dr Jack Urame described as “appropriate” the long jail terms meted out to the four men responsible for the sorcery-related slayings.
“The long jail terms will serve as a deterrent and warn others that sorcery accusations and killings are not accepted as part of PNG culture or tradition,” he said.
“The judgment is a clear message to society and sorcery-related believers and killers to change their thinking and violent behaviour.
“Sorcery belief is outdated and killing in the name of this belief is an uncivilised act.”
Rev Urame said the mainline churches, through the Melanesian institute, had been engaged in research on sorcery beliefs and practices since 2003. The church and the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission developed a national action plan to address sorcery-related violence.