14 February 2020
Solomon Islands: Access and equality in justice for all.
The Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Paul Mae, was quoted today in the Solomon Star newspaper has having made some fundamental statements about the justice system when speaking during the recent review of the justice sector’s draft Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Strategy.
Quoting some of the Star’s article:
“All Solomon Islanders should have equal access to justice no matter their gender, age, disability or remoteness of their village.”
I expect few will disagree with what Dr Mae reportedly said but perhaps one or two issues he raised need to be examined a little more carefully.
Yes, the Family Protection Act was introduced but what success has there been in seeing a reduction in family and domestic violence, or for a reduction in sexual offences for that matter, as dealt with in terms of the Penal Code.
Inhibition in reporting family and domestic violence continues due to various culture practices, intimidation and payback.
One regrettably reads of more alleged sexual offences occurring almost daily, even one today, Friday, allegedly involving an incident involving a young child.
His Honour the Chief Justice, Sir Albert Palmer, recently expressed his disappointment on the zero allocation to the Judiciary in the Government’s 2020 development budget.
The Opposition leader Matthew Wale said he supported the Chief Justice’s disappointment and called on the Government to invest more in the Judiciary.
Mr Wale expressed the view that government had neglected the role of the Judiciary for too long.
“The Judiciary is the third arm of government and its role in providing a functional haven for our people to access justice when their rights have been violated either by the Government or others, is crucial,” Mr Wale said.
For all Solomon Islanders to have equal access to justice no matter their gender, age, disability or remoteness of their village, the judiciary needs to be given a greater access to budget allocations and more effort needs to go into encouraging those that have suffered family or domestic violence to come forward and be given the necessary protection of the law.
Perhaps more funds are needed to help such caring bodies such as the Family Support Centre and the Christian Care Centre that do so much in caring for women and girls that have endured abuse at home.
Tougher sentences need to be introduced to punish sexual offenders, especially in terms of criminal conduct against children.
One would hope, too, the united Christian churches in the Solomon Islands would speak out more on domestic violence and the social abuses that lead to such criminal acts.