Friday, 9 November 2007 9:26 AM

Time to recognize Mr. Moti's rights

Our leaders have stated time and again that their actions and decisions have always been in accordance with the law. This sense of duty to be bound by laws should be applauded. So dramatic has the trend been in recent times for our politicians to engage in public "legal speak" that one should be forgiven for thinking that more of our parliamentarians are legally qualified than there really are. The fact remains, however, that while all our parliamentarians (and those everywhere for that matter) are lawmakers, only a few are lawyers.

While such public statements and pronouncements on legal matters are admirable, these sentiments which, more often than not, are heavily focused on obligations under certain laws can sometimes cloud the fact that there exists, in law, a correlation between legal obligations and legal rights- and vice-versa. The interplay of duties and rights accorded to various actors/persons in society, and their impact on relationships between the same, is a part of everyday reality.

In my view this interplay can be observed as well in the position adopted by the government thus far, on the Moti saga, and its effect on legal obligations undertaken and rights claimed by both the government and Mr. Moti. While the government/cabinet/caucus have willingly undertaken -as their duty- to protect Mr. Moti from what they claim is "political persecution"; Mr. Moti's own rights, particularly those based on the principles of natural justice, including those that afford him the right to clear his name by countering these heinous allegations brought against him -in his country's court of law- through a fair trial (if it gets that far), may have simultaneously been denied. In other words, in their zeal to do what they might think is right, the government may have inadvertently denied Mr. Moti the opportunity to exercise his own legal rights.

In my opinion, as things stand, there are essentially two ways by which this saga can be concluded. (1) Australian authorities decide, unilaterally, to drop the pursuit of Mr. Moti; and (2) Mr. Moti be allowed to clear his name through his country's justice system. For (2) to occur, caucus/cabinet/government must recognize that their actions so far, however well intentioned they might have been, may have infringed on Mr. Moti's own rights to defend himself against these serious allegations in court.

On the other hand, if Australian authorities continue their pursuit of Mr. Moti and if non-closure of this saga is really the agenda of some of the affected parties, one sure way to keep this issue alive is by upholding the status quo. These include the futile attempts to influence public opinion in the Solomons by continuing to subject Solomon Islanders to a barrage of information in some twisted "trial by media" strategy. To state the obvious, essentially, this issue is one concerning Mr. Moti and the laws in his home country. In this connection, and in my opinion, most of the information being tendered for public consumption thus far, including the famous 666 questions, is best suited for arguments in a court of law. In this context, the government's own position regarding Mr. Moti has both added to Mr. Moti's own predicament and contributed to prolonging this saga - which is long overdue for final closure.

In light of the foregoing, I would humbly submit that maybe the time has come for government/cabinet/caucus to reassess its position on this issue. After all, claims of doing things by the law should also include upholding the principles of natural justice. This includes, among other things, respecting and recognizing the right of individuals (including holders of public offices who are citizens of other countries) to clear their name if they are being accused of serious crimes under the laws of their countries. Instead of denying him his rights, including that to face his accusers, the government should look more seriously into affording Mr. Moti the opportunity, with no preconditions attached, to clear his name through his country's judicial system.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Peter Kenilorea (Jr.) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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