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Kiribati deportation attempt spoiled by pilot

By: Peni Komaisavai

Kiribati’s suspended High Court judge Justice David Lambourne was granted bail after being kept in a detention center following a failed attempt to deport him from the Pacific island nation last Thursday.

The deportation attempt failed because carrier Fiji Airways did not want to transport any passengers forced to travel.

Following a standoff with the airline, the Kiribati government who had even disregarded a court order to stop the expulsion backed off.

Mr. Lambourne was taken from his home early Thursday morning and despite a Court of Appeal ruling to stop the deportation, government officials said he had to go until the standoff with the Fiji Airways pilot.

Mr. Lambourne described the ordeal as a sad day for the Constitution of Kiribati, seeing government officials willingly disobey a direct court order.

He said immigration and police officers escorted had escorted him from his home to Tarawa after serving him with a deportation notice on August 12.

In response, the Kiribati Government said in a statement that Mr. Lambourne purposely visited Kiribati to continue working in the Judiciary which was in clear breach of his visa conditions and disregard the law of Kiribati.

“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 neo-colonial forces weaponising the laws that have been enacted to protect a Kiribati person to pursue their interest and suppress the will of the people,” the statement said.

According to an initial statement, the Kiribati government said Mr. Lambourne was on a visitor’s visa and had not attained a working visa.

However, Mr Lambourne is a resident of Kiribati for 27 years and is married to the opposition leader Tessie Lambourne.

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