Kiribati on Lambourne deportation attempt

Kiribati High Court Justice David Lambourne, right, pictured in 2019 with Sir John Baptist Muri, a former chief justice of the High Court of Kiribati. PHOTO: Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute

The Government of Kiribati has confirmed that a joint operation between Immigration and Police on Thursday morning was carried out to execute a deportation order against David Lambourne.

A statement released by the government claimed Lambourne had been ‘working since his arrival into the country on a visitors’ visa when he knows that his warrant was suspended pending the outcome of an independent tribunal and related court cases.’

Lambourne arrived back in the country on 01 August 2022.   Since his appointment has been suspended, he was issued a visitor’s visa upon entry to allow him to visit his family, said the government statement.

“Following complaints from the Kiribati Judiciary that Lambourne has been insistently presenting himself and demanding to use his former office at the Kiribati Judiciary Office and disregarding the direction to vacate the premises, along with demand and subsequent takeover of the Judiciary’s vehicle for his work transport, a deportation order was issued early the morning of 11 August following investigations that Lambourne purposely visited Kiribati to continue working at the Judiciary which is in clear breach of his visitor’s visa conditions and in disregard of the law of Kiribati.

“Given the facts of Lambourne’s breach of visa conditions and the total disregard of Kiribati laws, the Government of Kiribati is concerned by the overreach of the Court of Appeal in issuing an injunction against the deportation order when it clearly does not have any bearing on the court case related to Lambourne’s argument that he should be given a life appointment as judge of the High Court, said the government statement.

The Government of Kiribati said it had ensured that Lambourne was allowed the opportunity to seek natural justice while stranded in Australia and more recently when he was allowed to enter the country on a visitor’s visa. ‘The Government of Kiribati abides by the laws and the Constitution of Kiribati and has a higher duty to protect the interest of the people of Kiribati. It is disheartening to see neo-colonial forces weaponising the laws that have been enacted to protect a Kiribati person to pursue their own interest and suppress the will of the people, said the government statement.