The Minister of Justice and Community Services has appointed, for the first time ever, a Secretary to the Vanuatu Law Commission.
The Law Commission is a statutory body, established under the Law Commission Act [Cap. 115], which has responsibility for advising Government and its institutions on what changes are needed to existing laws and what new laws may be needed in order to reflect changing realities in the country, in order to make national laws more relevant to the needs of citizens and Government.
Although the Law Commission Act has existed since before independence, a proper office with staff to support the work of the Commission has never been put in place
Under the instructions of the Minister of Justice and Community Services, being the Minister responsible for the Law Commission, a recruitment process was commenced in April 2011 to appoint a Secretary for the Law Commission.
A panel was set up by the Office of the Director General and, after receiving applications, a selection process was carried out in line with the standard procedures used by Public Service Commission for recruiting civil servants. As a result of this process, a successful candidate was selected, Mrs. Bertha Pakoasongi. Mrs. Bertha Pakoasongi, formerly with the Public Solicitor’s Office, will be signing a contract for the position of Secretary commencing on 1st August 2011. Her primary role will be to administer and manage the secretariat of the Law Commission and head the Office of the Law Commission.
While the Government appointed the first members of the Law Commission last year, the current Minister of Justice feels that the present membership is too narrow in terms of representing the wider community. Accordingly, the Government is preparing a bill to go before Parliament to make some significant amendments to the Law Commission Act.
The principal purpose of these amendments are to update the law (which dates from before independence and has never been amended) and to improve the composition and membership of the Commission so as to capture all sectors of Vanuatu society. The amendment will ensure that chiefs, churches, women and youth all have representatives on the Law Commission. In addition, the amendment will also include the USP School of Law as a member of the Commission, thereby capitalising on the vast experience in legal research which exists in the Law Faculty, which is already located in Vanuatu.
Priorities for law reform for the Ministry of Justice and Community Services include:
(i) reviving the work of the Constitutional Review Committee (which has ceased since 2001);
(ii) introducing legislation to improve the Leadership Code Act and set up of a Leadership Tribunal;
(iii) reviewing and amending all laws relating to land and land use;
(iv) introducing legislation to better deal with sorcery or nakaemas as requested by Malvatumauri; and
(v) identifying the key areas of legislation in Vanuatu that needs reform and review.
The Ministry of Justice and Community Services is placing the strengthening of the Law Commission as a priority activity under its portfolio to ensure that the Law Commission is made to work effectively to address the enormous law reform needs which exist in Vanuatu. The appointment of the Secretary is the significant step in that direction.