Masterplan to elevate Native Courts of Sarawak is on schedule, says Jaul

A Study on the Restructuring and Elevation of the Native Courts of Sarawak: Stakeholder Engagement Session with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) is being held today to get the input from all communities including the Chinese in Sarawak.

KUCHING, Aug 19: The current study to come up with a masterplan to transform and elevate the Native Courts of Sarawak to be a judicial system on par with the Syariah and Civil Courts in the country is well underway.

State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion informed that the study which started in January this year is on schedule despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with the Final Report and Recommendations to the State Government due on Oct 10 this year.

“I am confident that the consultant firm, The E-Factor Sdn Bhd, headed by Datu Ose Murang and his team would be able to come up with a masterplan to transform the Native Courts of Sarawak not only as envisaged by the Study Terms of Reference but also and most important of all, meets the expectation and aspirations of stakeholders including our native communities.

“They are given nine months to complete the study and contractually to submit a final report on Oct 10, 2020. But if need be, the government may consider an extension of time taking into consideration the Covid-19 issue that we are facing now,” he said.

The consultant firm, he added, is working in collaboration with four legal firms and one engineering consultancy firm, all based in Kuching, apart from undertaking a few other studies in partnership with foreign consultants.

Jaul highlighted this at an engagement session titled “Study on the Restructuring and Elevation of the Native Courts of Sarawak: Stakeholder Engagement Session with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)” held at a hotel here today.

Aside from representatives from native communities, the engagement session also involved representatives of the Chinese community from Serian, Samarahan and Kuching Divisions.

Jaul emphasised that the state government recognised that the views, ideas, suggestions or recommendations of non-natives like the Chinese were equally important as the Native Courts were relevant to all communities in the state.

“Regardless of your racial background, whether you are an Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Malay or Chinese, the Native Courts are relevant to all communities in the state.

“Of course more relevant to the Native Communities with regards to Native Customary Rights (NCR) land and native customary laws and ‘adat’,” he said.

The Native Courts of Sarawak, he pointed out, was a legacy of the White Rajah and colonial administration of Sarawak.

Based on records, he continued, the Native Courts was first introduced in 1890 by the then Rajah Charles Brooke. By Oct 11 this year, it will have existed for 150 years.

“Since its formation, it has been an integral part of the state administrative system. Over the last 150 years, the Native Courts had developed with time but the current Native Courts came into being with the passing of the Native Courts Ordinance in 1992.

“As an institution that deals with breaches of customary laws, local adat and customs of over 70 per cent of the state population, it is now unable to perform optimally and there is a need for it to move in tandem with the demand of time,” he said.

The current Native Courts of Sarawak or Mahkamah Bumiputera Sarawak, he added, were not independent and autonomous like the Civil and Syariah Courts in the country.

“Against this backdrop, I must inform the pathway for the state government to consider to strengthen, reorganise and elevate the status of the Native Courts of Sarawak to become a judicial system which is autonomous, independent and an organisation which is respected and worthy of public trust and confidence,” he said.

Jaul reiterated that the basic premise and core foundation on which the Native Courts of Sarawak existed namely the adat and customary laws needed to be maintained, strengthened and most of all, to be recognised and wherever necessary, to be given the force of law.

“The Native Courts as an institution to which the natives of the state can be identified with are here to stay,” he added.—DayakDaily