I HAVE always unashamedly taken huge pride in my beautiful and unique country, Papua New Guinea – the world leader in languages and cultures. And with a long tradition of law.
PNG was not in a legal vacuum when Europeans colonised its tribes. It already had customary laws governing its affairs.
The colonisers ignored these laws and imposed their own. So today about 98% of the legal principles governing PNG have their origin in English common law, which could adequately address problems back in England but not necessarily in PNG.
Our problems can be unique, but a Melanesian jurisprudence can adequately deal with them.
Indeed, our forefathers saw the weakness of English common law and duly made provision in our Constitution for us to develop our own version of it which is referred to as ‘underlying law’ or indigenous jurisprudence.
The underlying law, Melanesian Jurisprudence, is developed from two primary sources, customary law and English common law.
I strongly believe that Melanesian Jurisprudence is the way to go for this nation since it is PNG made law and I have been researching it for many years.
This research has culminated in the publication of the first ever book on underlying law entitled, The Underlying Law of Papua New Guinea, which is an inquiry into the adoption and application of customary law.
This book has just been published and is set to be launched soon. Copies will be made available at UPNG Bookshop.
It is imperative that we develop a Melanesian Jurisprudence. We have a huge bank of worthy customs at our disposal. They are like ores which we need to extract and refine in the courtrooms and apply to address our unique problems.
Take, for instance, land ownership issues in PNG. English common law cannot adequately address these because English common law does not recognise how traditional communities like ours in Melanesia collectively own land. In these cases you need a Melanesian law and not English common law to deal with the issues – often very complex - that are encountered.
English common law was not made for PNG; it was made for England. However, it was adopted at independence because we were in no position at the time to develop our own version of English common law.
Now we have come of age. We are capable. We can develop our own indigenous jurisprudence.
The Underlying Law of Papua New Guinea is dedicated to this cause.