Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Law Made Simple

Dr. Mange Matui

It is important to have many books written by Papua New Guineans in all subjects that concern us. 

In academia we are reminded again and again that we either publish or perish, a call of the highest order, which at times seems to fall on deft ears.

Looking around the corridors of higher learning in Papua New Guinea I see very few Papua New Guineans teaching in our higher education institutions are publishing scholarship in international journals or books.

Very few ever get a book published either based on their research for their higher degrees or from their own researches.  The question to ask is what happened to all the research funding allocated to individuals every year through their research committees? Does it not seem futile awarding funding to those who will never have their researches published at all? It beats me to think about the answer.

Let’s be serious. Make those who receive government funding for their researches publish their works. It is a waste of money and time supporting university staffs who do not publish their research materials.

In recent times I have seen some very exceptional cases of academics who are serious in what they do as a full time occupation. Serious academics are those who teach, research, and publish their works.

One such academic is Dr. Mange Matui, a senior lecturer in law, who teaches law courses in the School of Law, University of Papua New Guinea. Dr. Matui has a LL.B (Honours) in Law from UPNG, a LL.M in Commercial and Corporate Law from London, and a PhD in Law from the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

Last year Dr. Matui published his first book entitled: The Handbook on Papua New Guinea Laws (2012). The University of Papua New Guinea Press is the publisher of the book.  The book length is 174 pages; with a glossy colored cover, featuring different areas where law is prominent.

The Handbook on Papua New Guinea Laws (2012) is written for a public audience seeking to know what law is, what law covers, why there are laws, and what happens when a law is broken. The target audience is a lay audience, for those interested in understanding law and the legal system this country follows.

In an effort to explain to his primary audience, his family, Dr. Matui realized that writing a book simple enough with language that is easier to understand, the subject of law or the concept of law can be understood even by someone who has never been to law school or who is not a lawyer.  This became apparent to Dr. Matui during the period he was conducting research for his doctoral degree.

“In an attempt to explain to them the types of laws that affect people in Papua New Guinea every day, I have in a brief and simple manner tried to discuss the various laws prevalent in the country,” writes Dr. Matui in the Preface of the book.

The audience is indeed a broader audience. The book is relevant to students in primary and secondary schools in Papua New Guinea. One of the optional courses on offer in some secondary schools around the country is legal studies? Dr. Matui’s The Handbook on Papua New Guinean Laws is suitable for use as a textbook in this course and at UPNG as well.

To get a sense of what the book covers the author focuses on key areas of laws in Papua New Guinea. He begins the book with the most important question: What is law? In two pages Dr. Matui answers that question before moving on to other elements of law: Making the Laws of Papua New Guinea, the Laws of Papua New Guinea, National Goals and Directive Principles, The National Government of Papua New Guinea, State Services, Constitutional Offices and Government Agencies, Human Rights, Citizenship, Immigration, Religion, Land Ownership, Legal Education and Lawyers, Free Legal Services, and Crime and Punishment.

Dr. Matui aware that legal definitions and language can be intimidating to ordinary people made sure to explain legal concepts in plain language that is easily understood. That is the difficult part. I think Dr. Matui had accomplished that task throughout the entire book. The readable content makes it easier to understand the book.

This is reflected in his discussions of civil actions, marriage relationships, adoption of children, death and succession, health, education, environment and conservation, non-profit organizations, banks, banking and financial institutions, insurance, intellectual property, consumer protection, tax, duties, and rates, employment, savings and retirement, housing, media and media freedom, driving and traffic rules, registration and licensing of motor vehicles, and schedule.

It is important for someone to explain law to the public so as to persuade people to observe the laws of the land, identify laws that regulate and govern our society. Law regulates everything that we do and have in our societies.

“Laws are generally rules that govern or control social behavior… morality, religion, or custom. For example, the social behavior of many people, in the Muslim countries, is controlled by the religious Muslim laws. In Papua New Guinea, customary rules govern the social behavior of its people. Here customs refer to the rules and methods of doing things that apply to any customary groups in Papua New Guinea. The custom of the people of Papua New Guinea is recognized as one of the laws of the country under the Constitution of Papua New Guinea. Therefore custom is the state law. This means that customary laws and state laws both apply at the same time and control behaviors of a person in the society.” Dr. Matui replies, in his authoritative voice, to the question: What is Law?

Right throughout the book Dr. Matui discusses the state laws and how such laws affect the way we relate, organize, and observe the rule of law in our everyday lives.

I salute Dr. Mange Matui for publishing this important book on law. Copies are available at the UPNG Bookshop; selling price is K95.00.   


  1. Awesome stuff.

    This is a great need for our people that Dr Matui has addressed. A lot of Papua New Guineans are not aware of their rights as citizens of this great nation, and I think this book would help us better understand that (rights) as well as the legal process.

    But one particular area where this would come in handy is with the Police. A copy of it should be given out to ALL newly recruited policemen and policewomen so that they are aware of their rights, and are well-versed on their dos and don'ts.

    Thank you once again for this information, Steven.


  2. Plus, your initial statements about the need for academics to continue publishing scholarly work on a regular basis is spot on. I couldn't agree more with you.

  3. I am definitely getting one for myself. Often I find myself trying to explain to the villager or a street mangi how things work and sometime make references to the Mama Law which I have no concrete knowledge about.

    This book will surely help.

  4. Well done Mange and thanks Steven for keeping us updated!

    Publication is now the "currency" of academia whether we like it or not and as scholars in this age of globalisation, internet, and increased collaborative relationships with the outside world, we can't keep giving excuses.


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