Cabinet has recently approved the introduction of a proposed Village Courts amendment Bill in the next Parliament sitting this year.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said Cabinet endorsed the introduction of the amendment bill for an Act titled Village Courts (Amendments) Bill 2013, which seeks to modernise the Village Courts Act 1989 so that it reflects other legislative and national policy changes since 1989.
“The change is also to assist in the implementation of the White Paper on law and justice 2007, which calls for the revitalisation of the Village Courts,” O’Neill said.
He said the Village Courts system was established by Section 172 of the National Constitution during Independence in 1975.
“The system has been in operation in Papua New Guinea under the Village Courts Act up until 1989 when the first amendment to the original legislation was made.
“Since Independence, the Village Courts are the most accessible and cost effective means of justice administration. PNG is unique having this system of justice that brings together formal and informal processes in addressing law and order issues at the community level,” O’Neill said.
These are some of the reasons for the amended bill:
· seeks to modernise the Village Courts Act 1989 to accommodate the changing relationships, conflicts and issues in villages and for the ever increasing settlement population migrating into urban centres with their varied ethnic and cultural heritage;
· strengthen the role of Village Courts in protecting the rights of women and children and addressing violence in PNG communities;
· clarifies that Village Courts are bound to comply with constitutional requirements to protect the rights of people accessing the courts;
· set limits to the number of Village Courts officials appointed to each Village Court to make it manageable and cost effective and ensure faster processing of appointments and revocation of officials; and
· Strengthen the role of District Courts in supervising Village Courts through the appeals and review processes.
The Prime Minister said Village Courts play an important role in containing local law and order issues both in urban settlements where they are established and in the villages where the bulk of the people live.
It is therefore important that this court is modernised and strengthened, he said.