Chief Justice: Mobile courts remain vital to provide justice for rural communities and urban poor

From left: Wong, Rohana, Tengku Maimun and Banerjee (right) pose for a photo after launching the inaugural National Colloquium on Access to Justice 2020 in Kuching today (Jan 16, 2020).

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KUCHING, Jan 16: The Malaysian judiciary will continue to use the mobile courts programme to serve communities in rural areas as well as extend services to the urban poor.

Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Tengku Maimum Tuan Mat highlighted this was part of efforts to serve society, especially those who do not have the financial resources to seek legal services.

“To many in the remote areas, formal justice remains merely a figment of the imagination as courthouses in these areas exist only in major towns.

“Poorer members of the community simply cannot afford the airfare or even the ferry fare.

“In larger states like Sabah and Sarawak, setting up newer courts may not necessarily alleviate logistical limitations for those in really remote areas.

“For this reason, the judiciary proposes to continue with its mobile courts programme with greater vigour,” she said in her speech during the opening of the National Colloquium on Access to Justice 2020 themed Justice and Beyond at a hotel here today.

She observed that mobile courts services have been carried out in rural areas since 2007.

Elaborating further, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong observed that challenges in reaching out to rural communities through mobile courts services will continue for a long time.

He cited the example of he and his team taking about eight hours to travel to Long Lellang in Sarawak, and travelling with four-wheel drive vehicles and boats to reach remote communities in Sabah.

In the meantime, Tengku Maimun pointed out that the judiciary will seek financial assistance to reach out to the people living in rural communities.

“Remoteness may not only be gauged by distance but also in terms of finances.

“We will find that financial remoteness exists in the urban areas in as much as they do in more rural ones.

“To this end, the Judiciary’s Mobile Court programme will also be expanded to encompass the urban poor.

“If one cannot access the courts, the courts will then make an active effort to reach out to them,” she revealed.

Tengku Maimun added that legal aid and financial assistance were slightly more complex because they involved executive and legislative policy.

Nonetheless, she shared that she had previously observed at a criminal law conference held in Miri last year that the judiciary system has a hybrid legal aid structure.

Therefore, she noted litigants, usually accused persons, may seek legal aid from either private or public-led legal aid schemes.

Meanwhile, United Nations Development Programme resident representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Niloy Banerjee noted there are other areas on top of the four main areas of access to justice discussed during the colloquium especially in the new era of technology.

“In addition, I would like to add some more especially those of you who are, let’s say, younger than me in the audience.

“For instance, your generation will be challenged with things like hate speech, your generation will be challenged with things like privacy in the digital world, individual privacy and your generation will also be challenged on how to attract good talents into the judicial sector.

“And finally, the challenge on how to convey the tremendous work that the centre does to the rest of the world.

“I think this is going to be some fundamental challenges that we will have to address in the judicial sector,” he said during his speech.

At the same time, he commended Tengku Maimun for her efforts to reform the country’s judiciary system which have been gaining traction.

“These are all integral to enhancing access to justice in the context of Malaysia as a nation aspiring to achieve high income and developed country status,” he stressed.

Among those present at the colloquium were Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Court of Appeal president Datuk Rohana Yusuf, judges of the Federal Court and Court of Appeal, members of the Bar, judicial officers as well as representatives of foreign Bar Associations from Brunei, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. — DayakDaily