Sabah and Sarawak CJ hopes native courts given same standing as civil, syariah courts

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum has expressed hope that the native court system in East Malaysia be given the same standing as the civil and syariah courts.

He said this would raise the standards of the judicial system in dealing with issues based on customs of the indigenous people.

"Native laws should be dealt with in a native court, not in a civil court or in the syariah court.

"The natives know better about their customs, they know better about their native land than outsiders," he said when met by reporters at a legal seminar on 'Justice and Rights - The Way Forward' here today.

Malanjum said putting the native court system in parallel with the other court systems in the country could give native courts the independence they should have when hearing cases.

"At the moment, the native courts are being overseen by state executives. That cannot be right," he said.

He said there were efforts to raise the standards of the native courts with a paperwork that was being drafted by the Attorney-General's (AG) Chambers and he hoped progress would come out of it under the current AG, Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Malanjum also hoped that the Sabah State Native Affairs Council (MHEANS) would include non-Muslim members as most of the indigenous people of Sabah are non-Muslims and rely on their customs as a way of life.

Former AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail believed that the AG's Chambers were still working on the effort, but it required some time for it to bear fruit.

He explained that although the native court system existed in the Federal Constitution, it lacked a proper structure like the civil and syariah courts, which was why there was a need to strengthen the native court system.

Meanwhile, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, who co-chairs the Federal Technical Committee on Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputra Minorities with Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun, said empowering the native courts had been a struggle.

"The issue of empowering the native court system is raising its standards and the whole judicial system so that the native courts and decisions meted out can be recognised on a higher ground.

"That is why there were mentions of establishing superior courts like a high court and court of appeal in the native court system equivalent to the civil and syariah courts," he said.

Ongkili said the committee would view the matter of raising the standards of native courts. — Bernama