The Government of Kiribati says it will soon have an acting chief justice in place, following the suspension of Chief Justice Bill Hastings.
Currently Kiribati has no judges above the magistrate level after the government also suspended three Court of Appeal judges, who had upheld a decision by Chief Justice Hastings over the government’s attempt to remove and deport High Court judge, Justice David Lambourne.
This latest statement from the government comes as the Kiribati opposition has called its actions unconstitutional and has tabled a motion of no confidence in the Taneti Maamau administration.
But the government claims its actions are constitutional.
It talks of its fear of the judiciary becoming too powerful and so altering the balance of power with the executive.
It said it is gravely concerned with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, claiming that in the Lambourne case they “purposefully created a life-time appointment, a position unknown and alien to Kiribati and the Commonwealth of Nations.”
The government said the independent tribunal it has set up is aimed at correcting this power imbalance.
The statement reads;
“The tribunal has been tasked to investigate these three Judges who continued to dictate in apparent violation of their Oath and legally binding Custom and Traditions (usages) by awarding David Lambourne with a life-time judgeship when they knew or ought to have known that David Lambourne in his affidavit admitted he knew that every judge in Kiribati had been appointed a three-year term and that such life-term appointment was never the practices and usages of Kiribati.
“Also, the Court of Appeal has disregarded the deportation order issued by Te Beretitenti in line with the Immigration Act, when Judge David Lambourne breached the Act when he returned to work without a work permit. The deportation order was in response to the Judiciary’s call of plea seeking assistance from the Government for David Lambourne blantly ignoring his suspension by entering the premises to work for his own personal reward, ordering staff for administrative matters and to be chauffeured using the Government official transport.
“The questions which arise are, would the Judiciary respect the Government to allow it to discharge its constitutional responsibilities. Would the Judiciary maintain the balance of powers and respect the customs and traditions of Kiribati and its usages and not seek to convert the Sovereign Independent Republic of Kiribati into a judicial tyranny.
The Government of Kiribati takes note of external Legal Institutions who continued to question and make negative commentaries about rule of law in Kiribati based on sensationalized media stories and the face value of the one-sided judgements by Hastings and the Court of Appeal. If such concerns are genuine in their intent to assist Kiribati solve this internal matter, then they ought to look deeper and understand the issue in its entirety, including the customs, the constitution and laws of Kiribati and their usage before making comments and jumping on the bandwagon.” the statement said
The Government of Kiribati said it respects the rule of Law and is committed to ensure the judiciary continues to function and serve the needs of the people of Kiribati.
It said a joint effort between the government and the judiciary will see a recruited acting chief justice is in office soon.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS