Monday, 8 October 2007 5:56 PM

New Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Sworn-In

A new Minister for Justice and Legal Affairs has been appointed.

The MP for Rendova/Tetepari, Francis Zama was sworn in at Government House today by the Governor General His Excellency Sir Nathaniel Waena.

Mr Zama was appointed to the post after it was left vacant following the resignation of former Minister Samuel Manetoali in March this year.

"I will perform to the best of my judgement in the ministry," the Minister pledged in the swearing in ceremony.

Mr. Zama said he will first look at his ministry's policy directions and move forward. He also stated that he will work closely with the country and to get feedback from the provinces. He promised more assistance to other provinces, especially the tsunami-stricken areas.

The new minister also acknowledged issues involving the shortage of magistrates and other law and justice sector resources across the country - saying those are among the top priorities he will try to address.

Mr. Zama adds that as new appointed Minister for Justice and Legal Affairs, he will especially work closely with RAMSI and the Australian Government, and to build a relationship with them.

Meanwhile, Mr Zama said his previous acquittal by the high court on charges laid against him showed how best the country's laws are respectfully discharged by court authorities.

The newly appointed Minister resumed parliamentary duties after he was acquitted of a 20-months jail sentence for official corruption. The Solomon Islands High Court ruled that Mr. Zama, as an MP, was not a public servant and could not be convicted under the penal code.

"Only the courts can determine a person's conviction or innocence and people who are unhappy with court decisions should appeal them in court," he said. "No one is above the law and justice must be allowed to take its course."