Encounters with Crime and Justice in the Pacific Islands

A/Prof. Miranda Forsyth1, Dr  Fiona Hukula2, Beverleigh Kanas, Chief  Nipiko, Edwina Kotoisuva
1Australian National University, Acton, Australia, 2National Research Institute, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Crime and Justice: Crime Prevention in a Pacific city: Examples from Port Moresby

Fiona Hukula

In an effort to change the image of Port Moresby as a dangerous, crime ridden city, there has been a concerted effort to address crime by various agencies.  This paper presents initiatives from Port Moresby that could be termed crime prevention. More specifically I will discuss efforts to address crime prevention by different stakeholders within the cityscape. This includes the National District Commission, international development agencies and local networks such as Human Rights Defenders. It seeks to contribute to the discourse on crime prevention by presenting and discussing how crime prevention can and could look like in a growing city such as Port Moresby.

“Kill all the sorcerers:” The interconnections between sorcery, violence, war and peace in Bougainville

Miranda Forsyth

Recent fieldwork into sorcery accusations and related violence in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, revealed that many see the violence as linked to experiences during Bougainville’s long civil war, fought almost two decades earlier.  This paper discusses the nature and strengths of these connections between war and peace, exploring how wartime experiences legitimated such violence and how this violence has continued in the absence of strong peacetime institutions of health, education and justice.  Drawing on Braithwaite and D’Costa’s framework of cascades of violence, it also tracks the ways in which sorcery discourses, practices and beliefs cascade to war, playing a variety of roles such as triggering local conflict, legitimating the elimination of unwanted individuals, increasing insecurity and acting as tools of both psychological and spiritual warfare.  Methodological issues raised by the study of violence driven by magical or spiritual worldviews will also be discussed.

Access to Justice in rural Vanuatu Communities Initiative

Beverleigh Kanas Joshua, Senior Magistrate and Chief Nipiko

This paper describes an initiative led by the author, a Senior Magistrate in Vanuatu, to work with chiefs to improve justice outcomes within communities on the island of Tanna.  Vanuatu is a deeply plural society in which many of the justice needs of the population are met by the customary justice system (“kastom”).  This paper describes the background to the initiative, its initial reception by the communities involved and the methods used.  It also describes some of the main challenges and initial findings from the first stage of implementation.  These findings includes the important realisation that chiefs cannot work in isolation. The role they play in the communities is important to maintain peace but they also must make decisions that comply with the law in order for trust and respect to be restored, and this is a particular challenge in regard to cases involving women and girls. This points to the need for some sort of jurisdiction that will guide them to make decisions that accommodate and consider the needs of women and children and allow them to be better protected. The informal system of kastom governance can be better utilized by victims in the communities to access justice if the chiefs are equipped with the right knowledge.


Miranda Forsyth is an Associate Professor at RegNet School of Regulation and Global Governance, College of Asia & the Pacific at the Australian National University.

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