Papua New Guinea — Village Justices

Michael Goddard’s Substantial Justice is an accurate account of the pre-independence consideration of a Village Justice system, except for a curious understatement of Hasluck’s views. He says, on a number of occasions, that Hasluck ‘did not favour’ Village Justices. In fact Hasluck was and remained intensely opposed to the whole idea of Village Justices. This is of some importance because Hasluck’s strong opposition carried through into Australian policy for many years after he had departed the Territories portfolio. Indeed, the Inquiry which Curtis and I were asked to carry out was, in the first instance, to relate to the Local Courts (that is the establishment of lower courts applying western introduced law but presided over by PNG magistrates) but was extended as a result of a request by the Administrator, Les Johnson, and some pressure, to Village Justices ( that is, ‘courts’ in rural areas applying custom, and, importantly mediatory methods to resolve disputes).

For the rest this is an interesting book but I am, as yet, to find any analysis as to whether the village justice system has moderated ‘payback’ violence. My impression is that, contrary to our hopes, it did not, but, in one of the few comments thus far (page 74) a Village Magistrate is recorded as saying in 2004, “the government talks about a law and order problem but if we village court magistrates stop doing our job, then you’ ll see what a law and order problem really is!”. [There were about 1100 village courts in PNG by 2004]

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Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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