Newly appointed Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey said the position is a unique one to be in and one which she intends to harness to spearhead constitutional and structural reforms already started.
She said she will serve both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court with equal energy and fervour.
Speaking after the swearing-in ceremony at State House yesterday morning, Justice Twomey said she is really proud and feels honoured to have been chosen for this position.
“I know there are great expectations from the public and huge responsibilities on my shoulders and I hope I can deliver as I am expected to. It will not be easy and I recognise that it is a huge load but with the support of my colleagues we will succeed to further modernise the judiciary,” said Justice Twomey.
With regard to greater structural reforms she said this will address case management for speedier outcome on court cases as well as streamlining court administration for more efficiency and speedier delivery of justice for all.
“It is a known fact that there is too much delay in court cases,” she pointed out, adding that delays in hearing court cases are our biggest problem.
“This cannot continue. We have to do something to address this. People need to have a timeframe of at least a year for a case to be heard,” Justice Twomey stressed.
She added it is sad that through the social media people who have no knowledge in law assign partisan political motives to every court decision and define the judiciary by the relationships its members have.
But until now, she noted that she is happy all judgments delivered by the courts in Seychelles have been peer reviewed by international justices and none have been seen to be politically motivated.
“There is always a loser and a winner in all cases presented. It’s very easy for a loser… to say that justice is only based according to the government or a political party. As for me personally, I’m not interested in politics and I’m neutral. My judgments are impartial and if they do not please one side, I regret as this is how justice is delivered,” said Mrs Twomey.
But how will she manage as the first person who is Chief Justice and also serving on the Court of Appeal?
“Cases that I hear in the Supreme Court I will not be able to deal with in the Court of Appeal but when I can I will handle more important and more difficult cases mostly constitutional cases but I want to maintain the close link with the Court of Appeal and to continue the work which I have started and put in place good jurisprudence for Seychelles,” Justice Twomey said.
The judiciary being a male-dominated field, what does Justice Twomey think made her succeed above her male colleagues to be appointed in this position?
“I believe I was chosen because I have always said I want to carry out reforms of our judicial system. I have started already with updating our law books, publishing our laws and judgment online through the SeyLII whereby everybody can have access and read the different cases and judgment delivered. I have also revised the Civil Code as well. My greatest duty to the people is to make justice accessible to all without having to go through a lawyer or a court library to have access to a court decision but you should be able to inform yourself by accessing it online. I will continue to push for all Seychellois to be able to inform themselves about our laws,” Justice Twomey said.
“I view my appointment as recognition of these efforts and it should come as no surprise that I intend to persevere with my reform efforts,” Justice Twomey said.
With her new position Justice Twomey, who until now has been living in Ireland with her family, will soon be moving back to Seychelles.
“I still have some personal matters to tend to and some work to complete in Ireland as well as my thesis to defend on September 11. But as soon as I complete all of these I will return to Seychelles and hopefully by the end of September I will start work in my new position,” she said.
Justice Twomey admitted that this new position will have some impact on her family life.
“I have had to make a lot of personal sacrifices and adjustments. I have four children – three of them adults who live abroad and a 12-year-old daughter who will stay with her father in Ireland to continue her education. But I am devoted to my country and I am ready to make those sacrifices,” she pointed out.
Taking into consideration the fact that when she started her studies it was not common for women to study law so why the interest in pursuing a career in law?
Justice Twomey noted that as a child law was a field that always interested her.
“My father was a prison superintendent and I would say I grew up among prisoners and this is when I developed the desire to know more about law. As a woman I never thought nor felt at a disadvantage to choose such a profession, I just decided to do it,” she said.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Francis MacGregor of whom Justice Twomey was a pupil has expressed great joy and pride following her appointment in this post.
“I am really happy and proud because it shows that hard work pays in the end. Success and achievements in life do not fall from the sky but are the results of hard work,” Mr MacGregor said.
He added that he will continue to be there for Justice Twomey to advise her when required but without interfering in her work.