The government’s slow or non responses to requests sought for increases or improvements within the judiciary is unsatisfactory and must not be tolerated, says the Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer.
Sir Albert made the statement at the opening of the Legal Year on Monday at the High Court.
Sir Albert said the Judiciary is the smallest arm of Government and least expensive, yet when requests were sought for increases or improvements, whether in terms of salary and entitlements for judicial officers or new court houses or facilities, the response were often slow or not forthcoming.
“As the third arm of Government, separate and yet inter-dependent on the other two arms of Government, its independence must be protected and strengthened by virtue of the roles, duties and responsibilities that have been given to it by the Constitution.
“One of the important ways its independence is strengthened is by ensuring there is adequate funding for the courts.
“In the papers last week, we read a list of political appointees to be appointed by the Executive Government.”
Sir Albert said apart from questions of merit, legitimacy and justifications, it would seem that finding money to pay for such positions is not going to be an issue with the Government.
“Ultimately, it is the public that is being denied the quality of service that they deserve.
“This is unsatisfactory and must not be tolerated.”
Sir Albert then quoted the Chief Justice of Australia, Robert French on what he had to say regarding the importance of adequate funding and judicial independence.
[“The funding of the courts is important and difficult. It is important because it is necessary to the rule of law which lies at the heart of our representative democracy. It is difficult because it must respect the independence of the judicial branch and because it requires judgments about needs where criteria to guide such judgments are difficult to define with precision.”]
Sir Albert said Chief Justice French in his speech made a direct connection between resourcing of the courts and the maintenance of separation of powers and the role it plays in protecting the rule of law.
In another speech by the Chief Justice of Victoria, Marilyn Warren AC, in 2013, Sir Albert said she pointed that out in order for the Judiciary to be able to perform their functions in an independent way so that the public may have confidence in the judiciary.
“She identified a number of fundamental issues, one of which is having appropriate courthouses throughout the country where judges and magistrates may sit to hear cases.”
He said courthouses need not be luxurious buildings but they should provide appropriate facilities for all, counsels, defendants, judges and magistrates and the public.
He also added that those who have sat in the deteriorating court house at Gizo will appreciate the importance of having appropriate court facilities.
Sir Albert further added that some aid donor funding has been secured from the Solomon Islands Justice Program, together with Solomon Islands Government funding to assist them in improving the facilities there.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN