Vanuatu rights advocate Jenny Ligo blasts failed case against accused drivers

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Florence Lengkon handing over a petition in support of women's human rights in Vanuatu during a demonstration earlier this year. Image: TIV News

By Len Garae in Port Vila

Vanuatu gender and human rights advocate Jenny Ligo has called on the Minister of Justice to “revisit resources” made available to curb violence against women.

Ligo, chairperson of Women Against Crime and Corruption (WACC) and Gender Equity in Parliament, made the call after the Supreme Court on Friday acquitted the three drivers – Glen Kovoi, Ben Koro and Charlie Kasuali – on charges of intentional assault against tourism manager Florence Lengkon.

Florence Lengkon as she appeared after the brutal assault against her on March 13. Image: Dan McGarry/Vanuatu Daily Post
Kidnapped Florence Lengkon as she appeared after the brutal assault against her on March 13. Image: Dan McGarry/Vanuatu Daily Post

“I believe Vanuatu is producing far too many reports without implementing them because it seems as if the more reports are produced, the less action is seen to be taken against alleged trouble makers,” she said.

She said the acquittal of the three bus and taxi drivers accused of the assault of Lengkon at the Main Wharf last March 13, confirmed that Vanuatu had many “dishonest individuals”.

Justice Richard Chetwynd acquitted the three men on the grounds that they had no case to answer to because no witness came forward to identify them as the assailants of the victim.

Although three names were recorded in statements provided by two police officers, there was no evidence on how Elton Worwor (president of Port Vila Land Transport Association) knew that the three individuals were involved in the assault.

-Partners-

Ligo said it was sad that more than 50 drivers of the PVLTA were present at the Main Wharf on the day and yet none of them could come forward to identify the person or persons who caused the brutal attack on Lengkon.

Kidnapped from workplace
The victim took the case to court after she was kidnapped from her workplace and driven to the Main Wharf, where she was punched, leaving one of her eyes swollen and closed, and forced to apologise to the drivers for criticising their aggressive behaviour at the wharf on Facebook.

The outspoken North Ambaean leader said what happened indicated that women would continue to be denied their right to justice.

“This is especially true when our leaders often remind us that no one is above the law and justice is for everybody,” she said.

Ligo said a second investigation should be ordered into the assault, and the justice system revisited with a view to making relevant changes where necessary.

“When one woman is denied [her right to] justice, then how many other women are also denied their rights?” she asked.

Ligo said what it “boils down to” was an abuse of women and girls’ human rights.

She said she was not afraid to speak out for the voiceless when the public seemed indifferent to “barbaric criminal acts” against women and girls or were too afraid to speak out against the perpetrators.

Len Garae is a senior journalist with the Vanuatu Daily Post.

apr tourism wharf vdp 680wide
Port Vila’s Main Wharf … where tourist ships dock and the site where drivers are accused of aggressive behaviour. Image: Vanuatu Daily Post
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