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'Judgeship is akin to some kind of priesthood'

The hounourable Chief Justice, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, my brother and sister judges, the President of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Law Society, members of the legal fraternity, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you warmest greetings and good wishes from Botswana and a number of jurists and judges from Africa who have taken interest in my appointment to serve in the National and Supreme Courts of your beautiful country – interestingly called the land of the unexpected.

I am truly and sincerely grateful to the Chief Justice, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and the President of PNG Law Society, for their generous and kind words of welcome.

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Judicial and Legal Services Commission for the great honour and prestige bestowed upon me to serve in the exalted office of judge of the Supreme and National Courts of Justice of PNG.

I take it to be an incontestable truth that judicial power, in any functioning democracy, is a power delegated by the people.

Consequently, I thank the people of PNG, through the Constitution, for the authority given to exercise this power on their behalf. I undertake to serve this great nation with humility and to the best of my ability.

I have been a servant of the Law for more than 15 years in my country, serving as a judge of the superior courts of the Republic. My appointment to the bench of PNG is just a continuation of what I have done for a significant portion of my adult life.

Since my arrival from Botswana, a country tucked away in the southern tip of Africa, and often described as an island of peace and tranquility, the honourable Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and other judges have gone an extra mile to make me feel at home, to offer counsel and to ensure that I acclimatise quickly.

My sister Justice Polume – Kiele with whom I sat as part of the orientation in the State Claims Track Court for a few days, has been extremely kind, warm and collegial and I thank her most sincerely.

I also wish to thank Nablu J for the assistance she had rendered me and her sense of collegiality. I was also lucky to share my chambers with Batari J.

Over time, he became a convenient quick reference source for me on many issues with respect to which I needed quick answers. Not once did he disappoint. I thank him most sincerely for his assistance.

 I wish to express my deep gratitude to Paul Kelly for all the assistance he has rendered me before and after my arrival and for efficiently facilitating my relocation to PNG. He has been phenomenal.

My associate, Alexander Jalina has been great – even going beyond the call of duty to render any assistance he could. He has been extremely helpful. I thank him most sincerely.

The decision to leave home and to resign from the Judiciary I have served for 15 years and accept an appointment deep in the bowels of the Pacific, in PNG was not an easy one, but it is one with respect to which I have no regrets.

I am certain that history will absolve me for this decision. My elder brother, Michael Kitso Dingake, on the occasion of my farewell party on the

20th of January 2018, alluding to my joining the PNG bench, said that let no one say Botswana did not contribute to globalisation.

 I thank my family for the support and encouragement to take this offer. It is an appointment in which my family and friends, country and continent, take much pride in.

I am also certain that my dear departed parents, Ngwakwana and Dingake, wherever they may be in the next world, are watching over this ceremony and smiling.

I am certain that they too are saying thank you, to you the Chief Justice, other judges and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission and people of PNG.And although my wife and children are not here with me today, to witness this historic ceremony, they similarly express their deep gratitude and thanks.

They have assured me, that in this high-tech global village we are living in, it is possible that with some luck, they may be able to watch this ceremony on Youtube. The honourable Chief Justice, I am sympathetic to the idea - that may seem, to some amongst us, as exaggerated and even unduly romanticised - that judgeship is akin to some kind of priesthood.

Acceptance of the calling of judgeship is akin to going into monastery – a place of worship occupied by monks living under religious vows and that to be called upon to preside over the affairs of your fellow human beings is a rare honour that must be approached with humility; for the judges wield so much power which they must exercise with care and sensitivity.

Consistent with the above theme, some authorities that are religiously inclined have observed that judgeship is an attribute of God; reminding us further that even God who created human beings does not sit in judgement over their deeds until their death; and only then does He determine their fate. Judges have the grave responsibility to sit in judgement over their fellow human beings.

In jurisdictions that still have the death penalty, it is only the judges that can impose it as appropriate. It is for this reason that judges are required to be impartial, independent, wise, humble and knowledgeable.

Before I conclude, may I extend my warmest congratulations to all the new judges,  being welcomed today, and wish them well in their judicial career.

I conclude by once again thanking you all for welcoming me and the opportunity to serve your beautiful country as Judge of the National and Supreme Courts.

May God bless PNG and its people. May He continue to guide the judges to do justice to all without fear or favour.

Thank you.


*A reply by Justice Professor Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake (PhD) on the occasion of the ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court of Justice to mark his appointment as a judge of the National and Supreme Court, on March 2, 2018

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