JACOB POK PASO and JULIA DAIA BORE
AUSTRALIAN High Commissioner to PNG Chris Moraitis announced last Friday that the Australian government will provide K300 million over the next five years to assist the Papua New Guinea law and justice sector.
Mr Moraitis said this during his speech at the opening of four new buildings including the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) centre at the Waigani National and Supreme Court premises.
This would work out to K60 million a year from Canberra.
Mr Moraitis said these funds would help improve the judicial sector in PNG by improving prison facilities and staff housing, adding that there was also a need to improve the village court by encouraging women to take up role as village court magistrates and would contribute in resolving problems at the village level.
He said the greatest advocate in the justice partnership programme with PNG and Australia was the Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd.
The high commissioner said the federal court in Australia was also committed in the partnership programme.
Mr Moraitis further said PNG judicial system is in a progressive state under professional hands of highly qualified lawyers and judges and commended the PNG judiciary for the successful land mediation talks carried out recently in Gobe, Southern Highlands province, which was led by Justice Ambeng Kandakasi.
He said he was happy that the Australian legal system has been also acknowledged as a contributor to the programme.
Mr Moraitis said he would continue to look forward to support the partnership programme.
He later officially opened the new ADR building.
The buildings and other judicial facilities where funded at a cost of K2.4 million by the PNG Law and Justice Sector in partnership with Australia.
“The ADR centre is evidence of a judicial system that is constantly looking for ways to improve access to justice,” Mr Moraitis said.
He added that the centre recognised the value of more traditional practices which have flourished in the communities of PNG for hundreds of years.
Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia said only civil cases would be referred for mediation.
“Matters ranging from commercial transactions, debt collection, family law and custody issues, customary land ownership and village disputes, and employment cases can all be mediated,” he added.
“The parties involved are able to resolve disputes quickly and settlement is final. Going to court can divide people and increase hostility. Mediation looks to the future and it can help to end the problem, not the relationship.”
The new ADR building situated at the Waigani courthouse area has both private and main conference rooms and facilities.
It also has a reception and change rooms for lawyers.
Sir Salamo also said architects were planning a new Waigani court complex and the Government would be asked to fund the project.
Last Friday’s ceremony also saw the opening of a range of judicial facilities valued at K2.4 million funded through PNG’s law and justice sector in partnership with Australia.
The new facilities include a refurbished Supreme Court Registry, two new committal courts for magisterial services, cells for detainees, and a sheriff’s office.