Access to justice has failed considerably: Salwai
Minister of Justice and Community Services, Charlot Salwai, has told the members of the legal profession and society that access to Justice in Vanuatu has failed considerably, and noted that even in some part of Vanuatu, people lack total justice.
The minister made these comments during the official opening of the Law Week, which would run from August 6 to 10 at Sea Front area.
He highlighted some of the problems believed are contributing factors to the failure of access to justice in Vanuatu.
He pointed out that legal fees charged by lawyers are very expensive. He explained that the fees become barriers to access justice, which can cause separation in the different sectors of the society.
“We can evidently see today that only people with high salaries can have access to lawyers and have their lawyers paid, sadly, those with no vatu had to suffer because they could not have access to a legal service.”
The minister also touched on the mentality where he claimed that lawyers have by placing money as their first priority before considering the principle of law. He told the members of the public and the legal society that this mentality has to be changed. With this mentality, it paints a bad picture where a person has to pay a price before acquiring justice.
He challenged the lawyers that the Government has to deliver services to the people because it is the constitutional duty of the Government to do so.
“To you lawyers, what are our ethical duties; is it money or service? I believe your priority should be providing service so that access to justice can prevail”.
Another contributing factor is that the attitudes and conducts for Vanuatu lawyers today do not at all reflect the fundamental beliefs for the citizens of Vanuatu as stated in the Constitution. Salwai claimed that attitudes and conducts of lawyers and law institutions are not based on our culture, Christian beliefs, faith in God and nationalism. He added that because of that, a lot of our issues today that should be solved by our lawyers instead, they (lawyers) become part of the problem.
As the minister responsible for Justice, Salwai told the members of the legal society that the comments are constructive critics that they can use to readjust and develop their career in order to uplift the legal profession and legal system in Vanuatu, enabling it to become more effective and serve the interest of the people and the Government of Vanuatu.
He also commended the legal society for hosting the important week, and especially with the aim to ensure that the people of Vanuatu can have access to justice.
Law Week is organised by the Vanuatu Law Society, a charitable organisation headed by Bill Bani. The Minister has declared for the event to become Vanuatu Law Week and celebrated annually. Members of the public are welcome to be part of the Law Week, a time for opportunities to know more about the legal sector, know the roles, functions and challenges faced by the lawyers and legal institutions.
There will also be public debates on hot topics from 6pm to 9pm throughout the week. Debate topics and discussions on whether Sex workers/ prostitution should be legalised in Vanuatu, whether marijuana should be legalised in Vanuatu, prison service VS correctional service system and Westminster System vs Presidential System.
Law Week 2012 celebration is based on the theme, "Promoting the Law in the community".