Kiribati’s Sir Ieremia Tabai scathing about decision to deport Australian-born judge

Kiribati’s first president Sir Ieremia Tabai says the decision by the government to deport Australian-born Judge David Lambourne from the country is “a farce”.

The opposition MP said there is no doubt, in his mind, that the government campaign to remove Lambourne is aimed at his wife, the opposition leader, Tessie Lambourne.

Last Thursday, the Kiribati Parliament voted to accept the decision of a tribunal set up by the government to investigate aspects of Lambourne’s work.

The government has not commented beyond a statement from the office of President, Taneti Maamau, saying Lambourne is being deported for his “misbehavours”.

Quoting from the tribunal report, the statement said “the serious misbehaviors of the Judge include his persistent disregard of the importance of promptly delivering written judgements in cases affecting public confidence, and also neglecting to take thorough measures to prevent any public misunderstandings regarding the fundamental role of a judicial office, thus jeopardising the integrity of the judicial function and process.”

Lambourne, who has filed an appeal, is required to leave the country by the middle of this month.

His family will be required to move from the accommodation provided as part of his judicial contract.

Sir Ieremia said the allegations were “trumped up” by the government, adding “our view is that it’s a farce”.

“The whole thing is designed by government to ensure that David [Lambourne] will have to be deported.”

He said the allegations against Lambourne were “trumped up” by the government itself. The main claim – that he was tardy in producing a written judgement, was based on a complaint from the chairman of the president’s own political party.

He said it was all invented to try and get rid of Lambourne.

Sir Ieremia said it is an attempt to try and erode the independence of the judiciary.

“It’s a funny situation because all our our judges have all been suspended simply because the government will not respect the judgments of the court, which is not good for democracy.”

He said the government is taking this action because the judge’s wife, Tessie Lambourne, is the leader of the opposition.

“There was never an issue when David [Lambourne] was first appointed, and Tessie was not yet in Parliament.

“It certainly became an issue to the president when she was elected and refused to join his party. In our view, it’s an attempt to try and penalise Jessie. So to attack on David is really an attack on Jessie. It’s well known.”

Beyond the statement on President Maamau’s Facebook page there has been no reporting in Kiribati that a judge is being deported.

Sir Ieremia said this is not a surprise given the government control of broadcast media.

“We all knew from the very beginning that is what they do. They never allow anything that is critical of government.”

Kiribati is due to go to elections, and although a date has not been set, the President immediately after the end of Parliament last Friday went to the outer islands.

Sir Ieremia said he understands Maamau is there to campaign.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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