National Courts – Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre opening
4 September 2009; National Courts, Port Moresby, PNG
Australian High Commissioner to PNG, HE Chris Moraitis
Good morning and thank you for the warm welcome.
It is a pleasure and an honour to be here for such an important occasion. You don’t really need to look beyond the guest list for this event to understand the importance of today’s activities.
Today is about a plethora of good news.
I have the privilege, later, of formally opening the new Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre, a fantastic initiative which I will talk about in a minute.
But today we will also witness the opening of the Sheriff Office, the Professional Assistant Office and the new Committal Court.
And apart from demonstrating that Sir Salamo and his staff have been very busy, what it also says to me is that the PNG judicial system is in highly capable and progressive hands.
And speaking of Sir Salamo’s hands, I understand that they are often to be found on weekends in the garden beds just near to where we are this morning, weeding and planting what will no doubt be another credit to the National Court facilities.
My allotted role here today is to open the new building housing the Alternative Dispute Resolution centre but what’s important to recognise is that while it is undoubtedly a fine structure what’s more important is what it represents.
The establishment of this centre is evidence of a legal system that is constantly looking for ways to improve the lives of its people.
But what I like even more is the “back-to-the-future” aspect of this centre. What I mean by that is that these facilities recognise the value of more traditional practices of dispute resolution which have flourished in the communities of PNG for hundreds and probably thousands of years.
I imagine there is a strong temptation to continually look outside at what other countries are doing. And while there is obvious merit in this it should not be at the expense of systems and processes which understand the particular needs of a country’s people (don’t forget that the ADR centre has been heavily supported by Australian legal system). And there is no doubt that this centre recognises those needs.
What it also does is to alleviate some of the pressure on the more formal court system which will improve access to justice for more people.
And of course you only have to look at the other facilities and functions we are opening today to realise that the PNG judiciary is a progressive and far-sighted body led by a busy and focused individual.
Australia is certainly pleased and proud to be a part of such progressive thinking.
But of course this partnership goes way beyond these new facilities.
It was only back in June this year that I had the privilege to jointly launch the PNG-Australia Law and Justice Partnership with acting Secretary for Justice and Attorney General, Hitelai Polume Kiele.
And what that launch recognised was that it wasn’t the beginning of something new but the continuation of a very productive and progressive relationship between Australia and PNG in the area of law and justice in this country.
The renewed partnership launched in June builds on a solid base developed under the five year PNG-Australia Law and Justice Program from 2003-2008.
Under this phase, the Australian Government will be providing approximately K300 million in support to the sector over the next five years.
In line with Australia’s commitment I am pleased to see that the Government of PNG has significantly increased its own resources to the law and justice sector over the last five years.
There have already been a number of outstanding achievements resulting from PNG and Australia working together, many in a similar vein to this outstanding concept.
The revitalization of village courts to promote local access to justice, including an increasing number of women appointed as Village Court Magistrates is a great example of the sector recognising both the value of a more traditional approach to the rule of law and the importance of the role of women.
There has also been a strong focus on decreasing the number of juveniles held on remand and a reduction in the average time for which remandees are detained.
And of course there has been a strong program of infrastructure development including the construction of courts, police and prison facilities to improve access to, and the quality of, law and justice services.
And while this is good news I understand what is needed now is a clearer picture of future infrastructure needs for facilities such as court houses, police stations, law offices and staff housing.
I also want to acknowledge the great work done through Yumi Lukautim Mosbi in our own National Capital District, which is bringing communities together to prevent crime, create employment opportunities for youth and support victims of family violence.
Australia’s goal through the new partnership will be to support PNG to implement its own policies and priorities, and maximise support for – and use of – PNG systems in delivering Australian assistance.
Law & Justice & MDGs
There is no bigger advocate in this partnership than Prime Minister Rudd who along with Prime Minister Somare last year signed the Partnership for Development which focuses on mutually agreed commitments towards the specific targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
This includes better access to markets and services through improved infrastructure; faster progress towards universal basic education; improved health outcomes; more effective delivery of public services; and better statistics, so that we will know whether we are getting results across PNG.
This is a common-sense approach geared towards poverty alleviation in this country.
Law and Justice will be the next cab off the rank in terms of the partnership with a schedule for implementation likely to be developed early next year.
Another obvious area for cooperation is between the judiciaries of Australia and PNG.
I believe that Sir Salamo is currently working with his Australian counterpart on a memorandum of understanding around judicial cooperation including common sense approaches to areas such as sharing technical expertise and information, workshops and conferences, study visits and work attachments.
And I understand the MOU may also extend to the Australian Federal Court providing occasional judicial support to PNG.
I wish you well in these endeavours.
In closing I would like to acknowledge the scale of the work completed under this K2.4 million program which we’re here to open today.
This has included:
- Removal of two existing court buildings
- Construction of the new ADR facility where the old court buildings stood
- Refurbishment of the National Court Registry
- Construction of two Committal Courts for Magisterial Services
- Construction of new holding cells located to the rear of the new committal courts, including security fencing
- Construction of road access and magistrates car parking for committal courts.
- Construction of Sheriffs Offices and
- Construction of the Professional Assistance Office building.
This is a considerable list of achievements and I congratulate the key players including, the Chief Justice and his staff, Heduru Contractors, Terence Karo Architects, the AusAID Law and Justice Program and the implementation service provider, Cardno Acil.
These facilities are a credit to you all and a powerful symbol of a progressive and innovative judicial system within Papua New Guinea.