Behavior Of Pentecost Chief In Vanuatu Court Angers Judge

Group again wears traditional dress to hearing; judge storms out of courtroom

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Oct. 26, 2016) – The behaviour of accused Pentecost Chief, Viraleo Boborenvanua and his fellow accused towards the Court and directions given by Justice David Chetwynd caused the Judge to storm out of the court yesterday morning.

Before exiting the court room, the Supreme Court Judge entered “not guilty pleas” for all the 9 men, refusing to hear them plea for themselves because they were in contempt of court again.

The “not guilty” pleas were entered for a number of serious charges including riot, arson, threats to kill, intentional assault, and malicious damage to property.

Chetwynd walked into the court room to find the nine accused persons still wearing their traditional custom attire, despite being instructed not to do so during the last hearing.

“I will not hear from the defendants because clearly they have no respect for this court,” said Justice Chetwynd.

Apart from three of the accused who are minors, Chief Viraleo and 5 of the defendants were remanded in custody by the Judge.

While the three boys were allowed by the Judge to return to Pentecost, Viraleo also known as John James and the other accused will be held in custody for at least 4 months until they reappear for trial in March 6, 2017.

Chetwynd reminded the defendants that he informed them last week that there were several ways that the court could proceed.

The Court would “punish them for contempt each time they appear in court wearing custom dress with intention of openly showing disrespect for or disobeying the Court”.

In addition the Supreme Court Judge told them he would do to them exactly what he did yesterday in court because they chose again to appear in their custom attires.

Meanwhile, Hilda Lini, who issued a press statement about the case last week but later claimed to the court that she was misrepresented in the newspaper reports made another attempt to speak on behalf of the defendants.

She told the Judge a letter was sent to the Chief Justice before the court sat saying the the accused feel their rights have been infringed.

In response Justice Chetwynd said if they feel their rights have been infringed they can make an appeal in the form of a constitutional application.

Ms Lini also told the court that the Chief wants to take all the defendants with him to remand in the Correctional Centre including the minors but the judge refused saying it is against the constitution, although the three boys have been remanded before until bailed by the same Judge.

The sitting was short-lived when Viraleo who was sitting in the front row wearing his custom dress, including a head wear, stood up.

Ironically he was holding a piece of paper which he started to read from when he was interrupted by the Supreme Court Judge.

He continued to talk despite being told not to by the Judge, hence the Judge became furious with the disrespect the court was getting, stood up and pronounced that the court was adjourned while already on his way to slam the door behind him and left.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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I am not commenting on the matter of the accusations against the defendants, which may well be founded. But that more than two decades after independence a judge considers wearing traditional dress a "contempt of court" is absolutely outrageous. The judge apparently still lives in the colonial age, and as such is completely ill-suited to sit on a court in a post-colonial Melanesian nation-state. The Vanuatu government should immediately fire and deport this man and replace him with someone who has respect for the country and its traditions.

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