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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 15) – The Somare government has allocated PGK8.7 million [US$2.9 million] to pay outstanding wages for Papua New Guinea village court officials throughout the country.

This amount has been allocated in the 2006 budget and will be channeled through the Department of Justice and transferred to the individual provinces, officials say.

Justice Minister Mark Maipakai said the allowance for 12,205 village court officials and land mediators had been outstanding since 1997 after Parliament passed the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments in 1995 to move from a centralized to a decentralized system of government.

Under this reform, much of the responsibility relating to the operation, establishment and administration of village courts was transferred to provincial and local level governments.

"The transfer of village court function was a good idea," Mr. Maipakai said.

He said the total outstanding claim for village court officials since 1997 to 2004 was about PGK30 million [US$10.2 million], but the remaining balance would be paid progressively when funds were made available.

"Most provincial governments are reluctant to adequately fund village court operations," Mr. Maipakai said. "As a result, village court officials and land mediators have stopped working."

He indicated the government was looking at the possibility of reviewing the monthly allowance for the village court officials from the current rate of PGK37 [US$12] a month to a more reasonable level. Mr. Maipakai said village court magistrates, peace officers, and land mediators worked tirelessly and faced many hardships but no one really recognized the important role they played in the communities.

December 16, 2005

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