There is turmoil in Kiribati’s judiciary as a high court judge was woken up early morning on Friday and forcefully expelled for not having a work visa. Justice David Lambourne had fallen out of favour in May when he was suspended.
According to Kiribati, there were complaints against Mr Lambourne by members of the public and an investigation was warranted.
The complaint has been called a political move just to remove the judge.
He had taken the Kiribati Government to court and had attained a favourable ruling and the case is now before the Court of Appeal.
On Thursday, he was taken from his home to the airport by Kiribati police and immigration officials who told him that they were following instructions.
This was done despite a court order stopping the expulsion. A video has emerged on Facebook where Mr Lambourne said the actions depicted a very sad day for Kiribati.
He claimed that there was no regard for the rule of law.
The Office of the President of Kiribati has issued a statement saying Mr Lambourne had been working in Kiribati since his arrival into the country on a visitor’s visa.
It said he knew that his warrant was suspended pending the outcome of an independent tribunal and related court cases.
“Mr Lambourne arrived back in the country on August 1, 2022 and since his appointment has been suspended, he was issued a visitor’s visa upon entry to allow him to visit his family,” said the statement.
“Following complaints from the Kiribati Judiciary that Mr Lambourne has been insistently presenting himself and demanding to use his former office at the Kiribati Judiciary Office and disregarding the direction to vacate the premises, along with demand and subsequent takeover of the Judiciary’s vehicle for his work transport, a deportation order was issued early morning on August 11 following investigations and findings that Mr Lambourne purposely visited Kiribati to continue working at the Judiciary which is in clear breach of his visitor’s visa conditions and in disregard of the law of Kiribati.”
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“The Government of Kiribati abides by the laws and the Constitution of Kiribati and has a higher duty to protect the interest of the people of Kiribati. It is disheartening to see neocolonial forces weaponizing the laws that have been enacted to protect a Kiribati person to pursue their own interest and suppress the will of the people.”
Meanwhile Chief Justice William Hasting is also suspended following his ruling in favour of Mr Lambourne. He was the presiding judge in the matter.