By Theckla Gunga – EMTV News, Port Moresby
For six years the Gerehu Urban Village Court has been operating from under the shade of a tree, because there is no proper court facility available.
As a result court officials including magistrates are forced to hear cases out in the open. This can become risky especially when dealing with serious court cases.
From afar, the magistrate’s bench could easily be mistaken for a street vendor’s table. But up close, one realises it’s a village magistrate waiting to hear court cases at the community level.
Previously all court matters were heard in a court room inside the Gerehu Market. When the Gerehu market was renovated in 2012, no proper court facilities were given to the Urban Village Court. Tony Bidae, one of the two Village Court Clerks says it is not proper for matters to be heard in the open.
“It doesn’t look good for us to hear court cases in the open, we need proper facilities so we can store the court files, instead of carrying them to our houses,” Mr Bidae said.
Mr Bidae has served in the Gerehu Urban Court for more than 10 years. He and colleague Clerk Waiga Gamu have presided over hundreds of court matters from under rain trees, just metres away from the Gerehu Betel-Nut Market.
The Village Courts were established in 1989 through the Village Court ACT with powers to serve summons, prevention orders, Warrants of Arrests and order court fines. For PNG, it is the first level in the Court System; 80 precent of court matters are settled here.
At Gerehu Urban, the court deals mainly with Domestic Violence Cases, Stealing, Drunk and Disorderly Behaviours and Failure to repay “dinau moni” (money owed to someone who lends money informally to people on a verbal repayment agreement)
For Gerehu Urban, there are 22 court officials, including the clerks and peace officers.
But the lack of proper court facilities and the absence of a filing system are just few of the challenges court officials face.