Friday, 28 December 2007 3:41 PM

Reply to Teddie

I thank Mr. Teddie for his response to my views on the above topic. I only intend to respond to two issues raised by Mr. Teddie.

Firstly, I agree that the JLSC or members of the JLSC are well aware of the sex allegations against Moti in Port Vila. I think members of the JLSC know about this way back in the 90's when the matter was brought before the attention of the Bar Association of SI. If Mr. Teddie took the trouble of reading my contribution, he would be surprised to know that I did not say that the JLSC did not know of the allegation(s) in Vanuatu.

The Bar Association under, I think, late David Campbell, decided not to pursue the matter further in light of the case against Moti being dismissed in the magistrate court. In other words, the Bar Association appeared to apply the presumption of innocence.

The JLSC obviously know about the Bar Associations actions against Moti in the late 90's (Personally, I was in Port Vila (1998-2000) when the whole issue came about, so I knew something about it as well. I also ran into Moti in his Port Vila office just before he sold it). I assume the JLSC went ahead to endorse Moti for the AG post for, perhaps, on the understanding the case against Moti was dismissed in Vanuatu (we should refrain from entering into the technicality of his case in Port Vila). In other words, Moti was still entitled to the presumption of innocence. Put in crudely, it was not an issue for the JLSC.

This cause of action by the JLSC was prudent at that time. This is the same reason why Moti still retained his license to practice law in SI. The PNG saga and subsequent entry in SI was a different matter altogether. The JLSC, as we agreed, brought that to the attention of the government. It was also a matter more for the Bar Association than the JLSC.

Moti would not be a lawyer in SI if he was convicted in Vanuatu. Hence, the JLSC would not appoint him if Moti did not have a practicing certificate, etc, in SI. Issues of Moti's child-sex allegations in Vanuatu are matters more for the BA of SI than the JLSC when the latter ponder on issue whether Moti was qualified to be appointed AG.

The JLSC can not discipline Moti once the appointment had been made. It was for the PSC. Therefore, if there is further evidence that Moti was not forthcoming about his case in Vanuatu or the PNG saga, it was for the PSC (discipline of public servants or people employed in the public service) and the Bar Association (discipline of legal practitioners). It would be irresponsible of us to hold the JLSC to account when we know it does not have the jurisdiction to do so.

This brings me to the question posed by Mr. Teddie. Moti's qualifications are well-known to the JLSC. Hence, the JLSC did not have to check his qualification since he is admitted to practice in SI. That was all they need to consider. Since Moti was not (yet) convicted in Vanuatu, a police clearance would not be of any good use against Moti. In other words, a police clearance from Vanuatu would not record any conviction against Moti as his criminal case was dismissed. However, it is good policy or requirement to insist that a police clearance to be submitted.

Secondly, Mr. Teddie does not do any good when he tries to undermine the judiciary in SI by equating the JLSC with the judicial arm of the country. I note he now tries to suggest that "ordinary" people do not see the difference. His first view on this did not give any clue as to his concern for public misunderstanding on the role of the JLSC.

It is sad to note that Mr. Teddie continues to equate the JLSC as part of the judiciary. It is not part of the judiciary. It is a commission like any other commission in the country. It is independent of the judicial arm of the country. As I mentioned in my previous article, the CJ wrote to Dr. Sikua in his capacity as chair of the JLSC, not as the CJ of SI. This distinction is important if we are going to make sense at all. We must not drag the judiciary into this.

I do not see for a moment the CJ action in writing to Dr. Sikua, as Chair of the JLSC, as being bias or compromising the independence of the judiciary. His action is to be welcomed as setting the record straight. As I said above, the CJ wrote as chair of the JLSC, not as CJ of the High Court of SI. That is how I see it. If any SIer does not understand it, then it is for us who have some understanding of how the system works to explain it to our folks.

As I mentioned in my previous contribution, any unwarranted pressure by the Sogavare's government was placed on the PSC or the Public Service, not the JLSC, as far as the appointment of Moti was concerned. Since other bodies such as the PSC have a hand on the appointment of Moti, it was expected of the Chair of the JLSC to come out and let the public know that his commission was free from any government pressure. Perhaps this is what the chair of the JLSC had in mind when he wrote to Dr. Sikua.

However, I do agree with Mr. Teddie about public misconception about the role of the judiciary and bodies like the JLSC. This is where we can step in and explain it to our folks, rather than perpetuating the misunderstanding. The media too can help in this regard.

Other matters Mr. Teddie raised in his response are important but I am compelled to stick to the original issue: whether the JLSC came under so much pressure when it considered Moti's appointment as AG? To me that was the issue that promoted the chair of the JLSC to write to Dr. Sikua. The chair of the JLSC answered the issue and I accept that.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Andy D Muaki and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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