By ZACHERY PER
On his last day at work after 32 years of serving the Goroka District Court, Magistrate Gerard Vetunawa locked the doors to Courtroom Three, handed over the keys, and walked out of the gate.
It was Feb 10 this year, also his birthday. The courthouse had been his place of work for three decades. At 65, he decided to hang up his official gown to relax and spend more time with his family.
He was born to Charles Kuiya and Joanna Jimmy on Feb 10, 1956 at Matsungke village in the south-west coast of Bougainville, Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
His parents had two other sons and two daughters.
They died when he was in Goroka during the Bougainville Crisis.
The young Gerard had attended the Murua Preparatory School before moving on to Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School in Siwai.
“I will never forget the undivided support of my family. They understand my job and allow me to do my work. They do not bother me because I deal with many sensitive and confidential cases every day in court.”
He attended Marist Brothers High School from 1973 to 1975 in Kieta. He worked for a while with Rabaul Stevedoring in Rabaul as a clerk.
In 1977 and 1978, Gerard attended St Peter’s Channel Minor Seminary in Kokopo, hoping to be a Catholic Priest. He moved to the Diocesan College in Erave Southern Highlands in 1979, then to the Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Port Moresby from 1980 to 1983.
“At the end of the fourth year, I decided not to become a priest. I went to UPNG to study law between 1984 and 1987 and graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree.”
He met wife Helen while studying at UPNG. She was pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree. Their wedding was held in December, 1988 at her Solo village in Buka.
They arrived in Goroka on Jan 23, 1989. He worked in the District Court while she became a Language and Literature lecturer at the Goroka Teachers College.
They had daughters Hazel and Cynthia. Hazel is a pilot with Air Niugini. Cynthia is a project coordinator for the Centre for Social and Creative Media at the University of Goroka. They all live on the UOG campus.
He loves Goroka because of the climate, food and the friendly people.
“I face no difficulties when I convict people. There is no resentment even when they come out of prison.”
He thanks colleagues such as Frank Manue, Felix Terra, late Martin Loi, Sele Seneka, Cosmos Inkisopo, Mekeo Gauli and Josephine Nidue for supporting him.
“And I will never forget the undivided support of my family. They understand my job and allow me to do my work. They do not bother me because I deal with many sensitive and confidential cases every day in court.”
He hopes the judiciary improves the terms and conditions of employment for magistrates.
“Maybe those coming after me might have good terms if the Government improves them. (But) my message to them is work accordingly.”
His successor Magistrate Nidue describes him as a mentor who leads by example.
The former magistrate plans to write an autobiography.
“My autobiography will highlight some points in my life which will help others to learn from – like I have learnt from other biographies.”
Goroka, and PNG, say: Happy retirement, Your Honour!