Vanuatu judges

The Bench, Supreme Court Judges with Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek and President Obed Moses Tallis (both in centre) with Magistrates sitting in front below during the official opening of the Courts yesterday.

Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek officially declared the opening of the Courts of Vanuatu yesterday at Dumbea Hall as he highlighted the vision, policy statement of the Judiciary, a 2019 review, as well as an overview of events and/or issues for 2019 and 2020.

“As we begin a New Legal Year 2020, we need to ponder on the workload and performances of the courts in the past legal years and look back to the good things, the bad things and the challenges Vanuatu and its people have gone through with the work of the courts, the development of the law in general and all developments in our society as to how they impacted on the life of our people and Vanuatu as a nation.

“We must then reflect back on the achievements, values, strengths and weaknesses.

“We must learn from our mistakes and weaknesses so as to ensure that we set new directions for the future.

“I believe that the direction for the future must be set on the basis of an overall vision. Vanuatu as a nation will be 40 years this year July 2020.

“The needs of the judiciary for reform, as an institution, are an on-going process.

“They must be undertaken as part of a national reform effort with the scope of enhancing its independence and core functions to enable the Judiciary to become a modern Judiciary,” the Chief Justice said in his remarks.

He then highlighted the vision that was set back in 2006 for the administration of justice.

That vision is: “A Judiciary that is independent, effective and efficient, and worthy of public trust and confidence, and a legal profession that provides quality ethical, accessible and cost-effective legal service to our people and is willing and able to answer the call to public service.”

On the policy statement, he says the Judiciary is the constitutional designated arbiter of all legal disputes in Vanuatu and at all times must maintain its independence and remain immune from undue influence, not at the cost, however, of sacrificing comity with the co-equal branches of the Government.

He says it is essential that the Judiciary and the members of the legal profession, as Officers of the Court, be of utmost competence and highest integrity.

He continues that dishonesty, incompetence, inefficiency and any form of unbecoming conduct are impermissible and will not be tolerated in the Judiciary or in the legal profession.

Lunabek said the key challenge for 2019 has been the availability of resources to carry out the work of the Judiciary.

He mentioned in particular the human resources to deal with cases and financial resources to undertake court circuits throughout the provinces.

“With the departure of Justice Fatiaki (Daniel), and soon, Justice Felix (Stephen), and the arrival of Justice Viran Trief, the Supreme Court will be effectively down one judicial officer for the early part of 2020, and given our workload, and pending cases, will put increased pressure on my Supreme Court judges.

“Our ability to reflect on the performance of the courts on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis is a credit to the Chief Registrar and his team, and as I have mentioned in previous years, our ability to present to you, the Government and the Community, our 2019 performance analysis within the month of January is testament to the work of many.

“We now have at our disposal more court performance indicators which allow us to assess the operation, impact and efficiency of our case management protocols.

“A key international indicator that we are now using on a regular basis is called the Attendance Rate indicator, that is, the number of times a matter appears before the court before being finalized.

“This indicator provides an insight into the impact and cost to the parties, for example, more attendances — more cost/more impact to the parties,” Lunabek said.

More of the Chief Justice’s address will be printed in the next edition.

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