Sorcery Act review

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

THE Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) is in Madang on a nationwide consultation to gauge views of the people on sorcery and sorcery-related killings in the hope of coming up with a review of Sorcery Act 1971.
Different teams from CLRC have since last month covered the highlands region, with four teams dispatched to West Sepik, East Sepik and Morobe this month.
In Madang, the team will stay a week, with a Karkar trip planned for this Friday at the invitation of Justice Minister Sir Arnold Amet.
Last Friday, the team had a meeting at the Divine Word University where students and academics raised issues and asked questions.
The Madang commission team gave out a 56-page book titled Review of the Law on Sorcery and Sorcery-Related Killings.
Eleven questions asked in a questionnaire inserted in the book hope to encapsulate views to form the basis of a review although the book admits that there are no written laws in place to specify the kind of charge to be slapped on an accused.
According to the book (page 45), Judge Ambeng Kandakasi when presiding over a matter said: “In the context of the offence of forbidden sorcery, the legislature should have specified what kinds of acts of sorcery are forbidden in the same section creating the offence, rather than cause us to look for answers in other provisions of the Act. The state is under an obligation to clearly charge an accused person with an offence defined by written law except as noted.
“However difficult the law creating the offence was, the state was still under an obligation to ensure that a charge it presented against an accused person is under a written law and the facts giving rise to and constituting the offence charged are clearly set out. In the present case, the state failed to discharge that obligation.”
Late CLRC chairman and Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Joe Mek Teine initiated the review coming from a province where sorcery or sanguma is prevalent as attested by the late Joe Dorpar’s death where two men were accused and beaten for killing Dorpar using sorcery.
The commission visited Motuka and Megiar villages over the weekend up the North Coast area of Madang where a village court magistrate produced evidence of items used in a recent sorcery case.