Pursuing the rule of law in conformity with the moral order
His Honour the Chief Justice, Sir Albert Palmer, last week reiterated his call to have legal education introduced into the school curriculum.
During his address at the start of this year’s legal sessions, Sir Albert called on the community to turn the nation around by allowing the rule of law to permeate thinking, customs and ways thereby shaping to shape the future and destiny of the nation.
I do not have the depth of knowledge or experience of Sir Albert in respect to custom but I am aware the cultural orientations of many Melanesian peoples were shaped by a warrior ethic-an ethos of bravery, violence, and honour-and this is still evidenced today with confrontations between warriors common in parts of Papua New Guinea. I know, too, the common law in the Solomon Islands is based on the law of England and the gradual development over the years of local case law.
In some Pacific countries, against such a pluralistic background, conflict between cultures has been inevitable.
Sir Albert is right to say the rule of law must prevail and the tragic events of the civil conflict that engulfed the nation for 5 years two decades ago should serve to illustrate his observation.
Society needs laws which protect citizens and which facilitate orderly and peaceful co-existence. Crime needs to be deterred and just punishments need to be fairly administered. Fundamental to this aim is that the law should be adequately known and followed by all and it should apply fairly to all.
Education on the law is important and within society I believe it should begin at home when parents need to establish a firm culture of accountability. Today, in many societies, part of the problem is that parents are often busy, which makes it much harder to respond immediately to their children. when they are unruly or disrespectful.
The order which prevails in society is by nature moral. Grounded as it is in truth, it must function according to the norms of justice, and it should be inspired and perfected by mutual love and nurtured in the home.
I believe it was once said, “It is unquestionable that a legal structure in conformity with the moral order and corresponding to the level of development of the state is of great advantage to achievement of the common good.”
That having been said, I believe Sir Albert’s remarks about law and conscience are timely.