FACTION - I sidled up to Ve’ Maghe working on his next piece of writing or legal argument. He was engrossed in penning a few lines and did not look up.
I’d been friends with Ve’ Maghe for a long time and had been around him so long I think he could recognise my smell, especially the lavender cologne that I liked to wear. It was registered in his brain.
I had no intention of introducing myself. This was his favourite writing haunt and it was a spot where I could always find him.
“You hear that FN passed on?”
He grunted something through his nose, slowing what he was putting to paper and paused long enough to look through the windows of the Heritage Bar at Crown Plaza. I looked out too, towards Ela Beach.
I thought he didn’t hear what I said, so repeated the news.
“Buddy, Francis Nii passed on last week in Kundiawa.”
This time he turned around and I looked straight into his glassy eyes. He must have had some feelings for Francis. I knew on his occasional visits to Kundiawa he had tried to make it to the hospital to visit him.
“Sats, I knew that a week ago,” he whispered in a slow drag. “He was a shining star in the PNG literary world. Writers are going to have a hard time filling that void.
“He was all things pioneering with getting books published. He was a flickering light extinguished too early. But in a sad way it was expected.
“And I was helping him remotely on his court case pro bono.”
“Yeah, you told me that,” I responded. “How was that progressing?”
I knew that they were conversing on a matter before the courts that FN had lodged in Kundiawa. I had seen Ve’ Maghe working on the Nii affidavit sometime back.
I had asked about it then and Ve’ Maghe had shrugged it saying he was just providing legal paperwork remotely.
It was just unfortunate that the Public Solicitor’s office in Kundiawa and Goroka or Mt Hagen were either too far away or not interested or just fully unhelpful.
I hadn’t being to Kundiawa but from what Ve’ Maghe related to me, it was a feat for FN just to get to these offices and the court house from his hospital bed down from the airport on the far side of Kundiawa, let alone for him to travel up and down the highway on a PMV bus.
“Now brats, what is going to happen to his matter in court?” I was pumping him now.
“It is a relator matter. He was prosecuting as the ‘next friend’ being the father of the prosecutrix.”
“Hang on. Don’t go legalese on me. What’s a prosecutrix?”
“An incapacitated person going to prosecute a matter in court. It is another way of saying the complainant or the plaintiff but in this case, that person would not have the ability to represent themselves in court.
“In most cases they would be minor. So a relative steps up to the plaintiff or complainant as the ‘next friend’ then the real plaintiff or complainant is said to be the prosecutrix.
“That is a relator proceeding. You understand now?”
I nodded my head - confused but pretending to understand.
It was not easy trying to get my friend to speak normal language when his mind was soaked in legalese - like now. Maybe I should change the subject.
Before I could, Ve’ Maghe was into it, more speaking to himself than to me.
“Without being subjudice, as the matter is still in court, first the prosecutrix may have gone past being a minor, he’s aged, so maybe he can prosecute his own case.
“He has to make it known to the court he will now prosecute the matter himself.”
I interrupted. “Ve’ Maghe, what’s all this subjudice business you’re talking to yourself about?”
“You don’t need to butt in as I am talking to myself but let me explain to my better half. You.
“My lovely Satori, you see the matter is properly before the courts and the courts have been vested the power to hear and dispose of this dispute that Mr Nii as ‘next friend’ has lodged with the courts. I have no business discussing it with you here and if we publish this, it would be subjudice.”
“You make it too confusing,” I said. “What could a man in a wheelie be doing taking people to court?”
“Sats, that is the problem. He was in no condition to be the ‘next friend’ but there was no one else to assist or step in as the ‘next friend’.”
“Yeah, that seemed to be the problem.”
“What problem?” I was getting flabbergasted by my friend’s habit of going the long way around to explain something simple.
My unsophisticated brain could not fathom what the problem was let alone know what a solution might be.
Leaving Ve’ Maghe to talk to himself, I sought out the bar attendant for a glass of cold water.
Mags was still mumbling away when I returned to the table.
“People nowadays don’t seem to have empathy for one another, especially towards someone in a wheelchair. FN seemed to be fair game.
“Listen, my love Sats, the short of the long story is this.
“A man’s son is locked in a police cell for 21 days and not charged. It’s a struggle to get him out of the cell because extortion rules the day.
“The cops know the court rules about that no wheelie is allowed to be a ‘next friend’.
“That was the relator application I wished I’d never heard of and something I wished had never happened upon my friend.
“In doing the legal paperwork, the little bit of respect I had for human beings died, especially with those people who hold officialdom as a whacking baton.
“It was one of those unfortunate burning inequities in life that passed my friend’s way.
“And now he’s gone.”
I sat in silence with my glass of water.