Motion of no confidence over Kiribati’s treatment of judges

Photo: Office of Te Beretitenti/Facebook

The Kiribati opposition is planning to bring a motion of no confidence in the Government of President Taneti Maamau.

This follows the attempt to remove and deport Justice David Lambourne, the suspension of the Chief Justice Bill Hastings, and three Justices from the Court of Appeal.

Kiribati’s first president, Sir Ieremia Tabai, who remains in parliament, and is a member of the opposition, is very concerned at this effective shutting down of the judiciary.

He said Maamau could only remove or suspend judges who are unable to perform their jobs for some reason, or who had offended in some way, and since this didn’t exist, he has no right to have taken the action he has.

“Before the end of the meeting of this house we intend to move a motion of no confidence – that is our way of expressing our sense of regret, concern, about what is happening.”

The government has been battling for more than two years to remove Lambourne, an Australian, who is the husband of the opposition leader, Tessie Lambourne.

It later suspended New Zealander Bill Hastings, ostensibly taking offence over an article he had written for a judicial journal, but also in response to Hastings finding for Lambourne when he took a legal challenge over his contract.

The three Court of Appeal judges, also from New Zealand, had upheld this decision.

This resulted in the Kiribati government calling their actions an attack on the rule of law by judges who refuse to honour the constitution, laws and customs by issuing autocratic mandates.

The government went on to say it “will continue to honour the ‘rule of law’ and preserve and protect the customs and traditions, the Constitution and laws of Kiribati, and defend judicial independence even from members of the bar and bench who seek to convert the Sovereign Independent Republic of Kiribati into a judicial tyranny, as Nuremberg Judges did by aiding and abetting Nazi Germany.”

The Kiribati government’s actions have been condemned by law and judicial bodies throughout the Pacific, along with the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association, the Commonwealth Legal Education Association and Commonwealth Lawyers Association.

Kiribati earlier this year pulled out of the Pacific Islands Forum, but the regional agency is trying to encourage it to rejoin.

Sir Ieremia said he thinks a statement from the Forum admonishing the Kiribati government for its actions could work in this case, given the huge international opposition to what has transpired in the past several months.