By GIDEON KINDIWA
HOLDING down a well-paid job with a law firm is not something he desired the most. as he believes there is more to be done in his profession to contribute to humanity.
Francis Kai Baundo, 28, is a young lawyer who had decided to dedicate his life and career to defending human rights, helping human rights abuse victims and educate people about their basic rights.
This is the story of the passionate young lawyer who left his job, and started two human rights organisations, Human Rights Advocacy International Inc. (HRAIINC), and Institute of Human Rights Education Inc. Both organisations were incorporated last year and were officially recognised by former Chief Justice Sir SalamoInjia and Judge Administrator of the National Court Human Rights Track Justice David Cannings.
Beginning of a dream
Francis hails from Kerowagi in Chimbu, although he prefers to regard himself as a Papua New Guinean. He is married with one child.
He started his formal education without having any understanding of what education really was. He only went to school because his friends went, or because of “ganigle” (keeping company with friends in the Kuman language).
Ganigle was the only reason I went to school,” he said.
When people talk about the importance of formal education and setting goals in life as a student, Francis took it all for granted and did not set any future career path for himself. However, in Grade 9, he began to feel an urge.
“The urge was to cause other people to live a better life, and consequently my words and actions towards the environment and people reflected that inner urge.”
In Grade 11, the urge led him to think that he should take up political science and become a politician in the future so that he could grab from the government and serve the poor. Later he realised how shallow and limited his understanding of leadership and politics was at that time.
“The truth is that helping other people live a better life does not only require a politician, rather it is a basic social obligation which each of us owes to one another,” he said.
He was selected to study law at UPNG. He admitted that it was not his dream to become a lawyer, however, he now knows why.
He graduated with a law degree in 2015 and was admitted to the bar after the mandatory internship at the Legal Training Institute in early 2016.
He started practicing law with Kombri and Associates Lawyers in Port Moresby from 2016 till the end of 2017.
Whilst working with the firm, Francis incorporated HRAIINC in January last year, and Institute of Human Rights Education in December. He pulled out from the firm at the end of 2017 and started working full time to establish his new organisations.
Francis believes that there is more to be done to contribute to humanity and to help create a better society. He has a passion to see a fair society where everyone is treated with respect. Fighting to defend human rights and educate people about their rights is something he passionately does.
“The feeling of promoting, protecting and defending human rights was so intense that I decided to work out something for practical realisation of my inner urge and passion.”
He felt inadequate and belittled being confined to an employer and working under set times and regulations. He felt the need to be free and practically express his desire in the best way possible to better people’s lives anywhere at any time.
Eventually, the urge led him to develop a passion for promoting, protecting and defending human rights in a bigger way and that was when he took the bold step of leaving his job and forming the organisations.
Human Rights Advocacy International Inc. (HRAIINC)
HRAIINC is a non-profit organisation established under the national laws and policies of PNG. It is for people of all races, tribes, ethnicities, political or religious backgrounds. Since its introduction, HRAIINC mostly assists the National Government in addressing human rights issues at the national level and aims to go international as well.
Maintaining a neutral stance, it intervenes equally for both the government and private citizens and corporate entities in promoting, protecting and defending human rights.
Due to lack of funds, Francis was unable to operate his organisation at the international level, however, he is very optimistic about its future.
HRAIINC’s paramount objective is to educate people in PNG as well as abroad about human rights and take lead in addressing and resolving human rights issues for and on behalf of the government through effective and efficient mechanisms.
HRAIINC’s areas of concern are:
- Sorcery accusations and killings;
- Homebrew – brewing, consumption, and related issues and deaths;
- Marijuana – growing, consumption and related issues and deaths;
- Police brutality – actions of few crooked police officers exposing the State to millions of kina in damages liabilities and tarnishing the reputation of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary;
- Gender-based violence;
- Trans-gender issues;
- Underpaid employment;
- Human trafficking and smuggling;
- Illegal trade across international borders;
- Land grabbing;
- Acquisition of customary land by State and customary land owners’ rights;
- Minerals and petroleum exploration, extraction and landowner rights;
- Illegal logging and fishing;
- Deprivation of education for school aged children;
- Rape/sexual abuse of underage children.
Based on the organisation’s objective, Francis has done litigation with human rights cases where there have been actual breaches and violations as well as cases where such breaches and violations were imminent.
“But that only accounts for ten to 20 per cent of my organisation’s objectives which really saddens me.”
“Interestingly, during the course of my litigation experience, I have discovered that any case, be it tort or contract, administrative or constitutional, property or marriage, etc., has elements of human rights violation,” he said.
In his litigation work, Francis works for the Public Solicitor’s Office, private law firms and other human rights entities. He has served and saved many human rights victims mostly in the National Capital District and some in other provinces as well.
He has not yet engaged with the Ministry and Department of Justice and Attorney General for intervention plus other human rights organisations which he is willing to work with.
“I am open to partner with government, organisations or individuals in serving humanity and human dignity at all costs,” he said.
Institute of Human Rights Education Inc.
Having experienced so many human rights cases on a daily basis, Francis came to realise the importance and urgency of educating people about human rights through an established and recognised medium. He then founded the Institute of Human Rights Education with the primary objective of providing formal human rights education to all classes and ages. He planned to have it as a formal education agency in partnership with the Department of Education and other interested parties as well.
The institution focuses on educating the following:
- State disciplinary forces – PNG Defence Force, Police, and the Correctional Service.
- Private security firms.
- Members of Parliament.
- Chief executive officers/managing directors.
- Heads of departments.
- Public servants.
- Private sector employees.
- People living with disabilities.
- Ordinary citizens.
The institute will educate people on current laws and policies on human rights and teach them how, when and where to seek administrative and legal redress when these rights are being violated.
It also aims to educate people to be aware of situations which lead abuse or violation of their rights and the types of remedies available in a given situation.
Litigating for the unheard
Francis had set up his first small office in the heart of a settlement at Boroko. He said he wanted to set up within settlements where most victims come from. His office is open 24 hours and most people feel at home by his humble and open character.
He aims to establish offices across all settlements and later a main office in the city. Then, he plans to move out to other provinces and make the organisations nationwide and later look abroad. He believes so many people in the settlements experience some of human rights violation almost every day in the lives and he chose to reach out to them in every way possible.
In his one year of intensive human rights litigations, over 90 per cent of his clients were victims of police brutality. A good number were victims of unlawful termination and mistreatment by employers. Complaints of illegal land grabbing by wealthy citizens and foreigners were numerous.
“As a human rights advocate, I really want to make sure that every single individual citizen of this nation understands his or her rights and know how these rights are violated, and where, when and how to enforce those rights,” Francis said.
“Understanding of one’s rights enables understanding of others’and abuse or violation of these rights would be minimised or avoided.
“I have sacrificed paid employment and my hardworking and supportive family to pursue what I strongly feel is God’s calling in my life.
“I won’t ever give up on what I’ve started in the name of serving human rights and human dignity,” he said.
Francis believes achieving righteousness was impossible but it was worth setting as an aim in order to maintain a thriving passion rather than being complacent.
He is looking forward to a lifetime of defending human rights and helping create a just and respectful society in this nation and the world.