First African judge sworn to PNG bench

A historical swearing-in took place today at the Government house.

Today saw Justice Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake become the first African judge to be sworn onto the Supreme & National Court benches of PNG.

Witnessed by the PNG Judiciary and Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae, Justice Dingake took his oath and made his declarations.

At the time of his appointment to the PNG Judiciary, Justice Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake (pronounced -Oa-hile Bethuel Key Dina-ke) served for 15 years in the Botswana courts.

He was an associate professor of law, teaching at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and has also sat on an international tribunal that deals with human rights violation in Sierra Leone (West Africa).

He had to relinquish all those positions to come to PNG and has been assigned to sit with Justice Hitelai Polume-Kiele in a State-claims track of the National Court.

Having a prime interest in human rights cases, the new judge in the country said both countries being former colonies of Britain share similar values.

The attraction of PNG came after he read up some of the judgments by both the National and Supreme Courts and found them “very persuasive and aligned” to the value system he carries as a judge.

“It also offered the opportunity to serve beyond the shores of Botswana at an international level an experience that one does not ordinarily forego in their lifetime. So those were the attractions that brought me to PNG,” he said.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia said he is the last of judicial appointments for this year due to budget constraints.

“We are not able to recruit anymore this year. Hopefully we are looking at some more appointments next year, and our intention is to increase the number of judges to around 60-80 in the next 5 to 10 years but we are almost half way there,” he added.

Sally Pokiton