AS news of the dismissal of yet another Government’s costly appeal sinks through, calls are getting louder for the sacking of Attorney General John Muria jnr and Solicitor General Banuve.
The Court of Appeal this week dismissed the government’s latest appeal which involves a $50 million compensation awarded to local medico, Reginal Aipia, by the High Court.
Announcing the decision on video link last Tuesday, Court of Appeal President John Hansen called for a “serious review of civil litigation” in Solomon Islands court system.
Welcoming the decision, Dr. Aipia said he knew all along the government appeal was “a waste of time, money and court resources and was intended to frustrate rather than facilitate the smooth administration of the justice system” in this country.
“I knew all along that the appeal was a waste of time, waste of resources and waste of the Court’s precious time. The outcome was what I had hoped for and I am grateful I got what I expected all along,” Dr. Aipia told Solomon Star outside the court on Tuesday.
“I am happy there is still justice in our courts system,” he said.
Others have joined the chorus of calls for the immediate dismissal of Attorney General Muria jnr and Solicitor General, Banuve.
Still others said it is the entire office that must go.
“We, not only need brooms to go in there. We need mops. The entire office must go,” a member of the public said this week.
“Taxpayers cannot be made to keep footing huge expenses of court cases the government knew it could not win, the man said.
“It’s the Prime Minister’s call. He cannot subject this country to wasteful and ill-advice we have witnessed in this country over the years,” the man said.
With the dismissal of the appeal, the matter would now be returned to the High Court for a new assessment of costs, which would be added to the final payout sum.
The case relates initially to beche de mer fishing or harvesting in 2017. It was later joined with another allegation that Dr. Aipia was involved in beche de mer or sea cucumber farming trial in Ontong Java.
Dr. Aipia was subsequently arrested and brought to Honiara on the Government’s Patrol Boat. He was charged and prosecuted by police officers who were assisted by senior fisheries officers.
Written statements tendered in the Magistrates Court by police officers as evidence were never sworn – a matter raised in the Court of Appeal by Judge Hansen.
Dr. Apia was jailed, largely on the basis of unsworn statements by police officers. But Dr. Aipia successfully appealed the Magistrates’ decision to the High Court which awarded Dr. Aipia $50 million in compensation.
The Office of the Attorney General immediately appealed the decision, claiming it was too excessive.
Court of Appeal President Hansen said it was “regrettable” that the prosecution never called police to give evidence in support of the case.
Such, he said, calls for a “serious review of civil litigation” in Solomon Islands.
Chief Justice Albert Palmer who is also a member of the Court of Appeal said in his closing remarks that the matter would be dealt with.
It is unclear when Court of Appeal decision would come before the High Court judge who initially awarded the $50 million compensation.
Dr Aipia’s successful appeal against the government is the second case in the Court of Appeal this year.
The first involved Levers Solomon Ltd (LSL) which succeeded in getting the approval for reinforcing a High Court decision in a similar multi-million-dollar award.
By Alfred Sasako