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MIRI, Jan 19: Dayak National Congress (DNC) supports Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjun’s proposal to elevate Native Court to be the Third Pillar of Justice.
Its president, Paul Raja, said this was what he had been advocating for a long time and had conducted public forums and meetings to no avail.
Richard made the suggestion in his plenary paper presented at the Borneo Rainforest Law Conference 2019 in Kota Kinabalu on Thursday. He suggested that the status of native courts be raised to the same level as Civil and Shariah Courts.
Paul said for that to happen, all stakeholders — the native community, the community leaders who are custodians of the `adat’ (customs), politicians, Sarawak government and Sarawak Legislative Assembly, federal government and Parliament — must agree to it.
“Once there is a consensus, then all parties must work together.
“The native community has been pushing for it with the support of the civil societies, but there is a lack of response from the government. Whatever may be the reason, no one knows,” said Paul in a statement yesterday.
He further listed a few prerequisites. Firstly, he said, there must be amendments to federal and Sarawak laws. The most challenging one is the Federal Constitution to grant judicial power to the Natives Court over Native customs in Sarawak and Sabah besides the Civil and Shariah Courts.
“Jurisdiction must cover the entire customs and not just cherry picking. A holistic approach must be done to enable it to be dignified, respected with the necessary power of enforcement.
“The judges must be properly equipped, qualified and trained in the field of customary laws. This requires the revamp of the current method of appointments.
“Ideally, the judges of the Native Courts must have some legal training and must be very conversant with the customs of the people.
“The approach of hiring retired civil servants must stop and appointments must be for career people,” said Paul.
He stressed that the court must be an independent body and operates in a similar way to the civil courts, with the necessary allocations and support.
“It must no longer be under the Chief Minister’s Department nor dictated by the State Attorney-General’s Office,” he opined.
He added that other supporting agencies, like Majlis Adat Istiadat, must be properly constituted and must be an independent council who have custodian over the `adat’.
“They must not be under the influence of the government and must be able to state their stand even if it means contradicting the government,” he insisted.
Lastly, he proposed the establishment of a training institution to provide training for the judges and the officers of the court.
He said for all this to happen, the Sarawak government who must see it in a positive light.
“But the question is, is the Sarawak government willing? This is the time for it to take stocks of its ‘Sarawak First’ stand by empowering Sarawakians with the rights.
“Custom is a state matter under the Federal Constitution, so the duty to propose and move the amendment must be by the state government or, at least, the state government must give its full support to anybody that moves the amendment to the laws.
“It is the ultimate dream of the natives of Sarawak to have a dignified judicial system that understands them and in which they have confidence that they can access to justice,” said Paul. — DayakDaily