find the latest legal job
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Legal Inhouse / Lawyer / Company Secretary
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Fantastic Company · Potential to be Part Time / Flexible Work Pattern
View details
Infrastructure Lawyer/SA
Category: Construction Law | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Global elite law firm · Dedicated Infrastructure team
View details
Lawyers-urge-caution-in-PNG

Lawyers-urge-caution-in-PNG

Recent attacks on Gadens Lawyers' staff in Papua New Guinea (PNG) may cause lawyers to rethink any plans to redeploy to the vibrant, yet dangerous jurisdiction, writes Ben Abbott On the surface,

Recent attacks on Gadens Lawyers' staff in Papua New Guinea (PNG) may cause lawyers to rethink any plans to redeploy to the vibrant, yet dangerous jurisdiction, writes Ben Abbott

On the surface, Papua New Guinea may look like a golden opportunity for lawyers pursuing international experience. Richly endowed with natural resources, the jurisdiction is yielding the most challenging work in the Pacific Islands - and is a far cry from the well-trodden streets of London.

However, those with experience on the ground in the nation's capital, Port Moresby, are warning lawyers that they should think carefully about their own safety before making the move to the Pacific. "It's not all cocktails under the coconut tree," Blake Dawson PNG specialist and partner Richard Flynn says.

This has become clearer in recent weeks, after Gadens' Port Moresby partners and some junior legal staff were placed under 24-hour guard due to ongoing fears of being attacked. Allegedly linked with a case the firm was prosecuting for major banking client Bank South Pacific (BSP), junior local lawyers had been threatened and attacked by men with guns, eventually forcing the firm to withdraw from representing BSP.

The worrying incidents have been linked to the influence of former PNG MP Peter Yama, whose company was the target of BSP's efforts to recover 7.6 million kina ($3 million) in debts. The firm's partner Erik Anderson was also arrested late last year and is being investigated by police in regard to the same case, at Yama's urging.

Talking to Lawyers Weekly, Gadens' Port Moresby partner Winifred Kamit called these recent incidents a "matter of national importance", because of the seriousness with which the business community would look at violence against their staff, and the possibility of law enforcement corruption in PNG.

Gadens is no stranger to violent circumstances. Erik Andersen, who is from New Zealand, was attacked in a Port Moresby nightclub in 2004, and had to be airlifted to Australia with head injuries. This attack was also linked to a case he was involved in at the time.

Blake Dawson's Richard Flynn is close to the jurisdiction, currently representing the financiers involved in ExxonMobil's PNG LNG project. Having previously worked in Port Moresby, Flynn says the current circumstances are "an exception" and "are not the norm for the legal profession in PNG".

However, he says his firm would take the circumstances seriously. "They (the incidents) evidence a significant breakdown in normal government processes. The fact that thugs and members of the police force can be organised to put pressure on lawyers is of major concern to PNG," he says.

Flynn says banking clients, likewise, would regard the situation as exceptional, and would be unlikely to do any rethinking about the jurisdiction: "The banks themselves are dealing with this more often than the legal profession." He cites instances of kidnapping and extortion of bank officers during the past four years, not linked with the current matter, which threaten to put PNG into a basket with South America, where "extortion is a way of life".

Indeed, two Australian executives at BSP were recently placed under investigation, along with Andersen, in connection with the case against Yama's company, after Yama accused the bank of trying to defraud him.

Kamit says while the business community has remained resilient because of the great opportunities available, it has had to be in a position to spend money to protect itself in more recent times.

Though PNG's legal system may be "riddled with imperfections", according to Flynn, what comes with that are rewarding and challenging professional opportunities and a vibrant commercial sector. "PNG's legal and commercial world is larger and more complex than other pacific countries," he says.

Kamit agrees. "In terms of legal exposure, the kinds of work we do mean it is an ideal base for any lawyer to have an overseas experience." She points to the jurisdiction's resource boom, with large projects going ahead or slated, such as Exxon's headline LNG project. "These are things young lawyers would want to get their teeth into."

PLN Lawyers' managing partner John Ridgeway also says PNG has the scale that other places in the region don't have.

PNG is now considered to be in "the more dangerous" category, Flynn says. Other hot spots in the region include Indonesia, as well as the Solomon Islands and Fiji, where threats were made against local members of the legal profession following the recent coup.

Kamit laments the fact that foreign nationals will not be able to experience the same social freedoms as in their home countries when choosing PNG for an international stint, referring to concerns about everyday safety in Port Moresby. "It is a loss to PNG in terms of providing that opportunity as a destination," she says.

But the more positive Ridgeway believes recent incidents should not be seen as indicative of danger in the PNG capital. Ridgeway says the firm sends lawyers to PNG and other islands, and that it was likely to have "more problems in the Sydney CBD than in that part of the world."

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Lawyers-urge-caution-in-PNG
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Nov 24 2017
Demand lifts in 2017/18 for short-term finance to cover crises
Promoted by NWC Finance. The first five months of the 2017-18 financial year have seen unpreceden...
LCA welcomes religious freedom panel
Nov 24 2017
LCA welcomes religious freedom panel
The Law Council of Australia says the establishment of a panel which will examine the human right to...
Law Society launched a new website, legal politics and lawmaking
Nov 24 2017
Law Society launches project to engage young Aussies
The Law Society of NSW has launched a new website to engage young Australians in legal politics and ...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...