Senior lawyer backs call for setting up special land tribunal


Baru (left) shows reporters Suhakam’s report, the National Inquiry Into The Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which made strong recommendations for the setting up a special tribunal. Also seen is Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How.

KUCHING: A senior native customary rights (NCR) lawyer has backed the proposal by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum for the setting up of a special land tribunal or dedicated court to look into the increasing number of NCR land cases in the state.

Baru Bian, who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman and state PKR chairman, said this was in fact the very issue that the state PKR assemblymen tried to bring up in the State Legislative Assembly in its last sitting.

He pointed out that in its report titled ‘National Inquiry Into The Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) had also made strong recommendations for the setting up of the special tribunal.

“When it comes from the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, I can tell you that it means a lot, being the judge who is aware of the many land cases pending in the High Courts in Sarawak. I think, it is therefore a very serious issue and we want the state government to take this issue very seriously,” Baru said at a press conference here yesterday.

Considering that matters pertaining to state land are under the state government’s jurisdiction, he said one way that the special tribunal could be set up is for the state government to pass a new ordinance.

“The state government can respond immediately to this under a special ordinance. The powers that we want for this special tribunal can be detailed in the ordinance itself and the composition of the panel can all be described in this ordinance as well.”

Baru said the state PKR leadership is ready and open if the state government is willing to set up the special tribunal, and be a part of the working committee to work out the details and composition as well as powers of the special tribunal.

He stated that the setting up of the special tribunal could also help to clear the serious backlog of land dispute cases pending at the Resident’s Court and Native Court of Appeal for years due to lack of judges as well as having only one judge to cover all the cases in the whole state.

“If not mistaken, I was made to understand that there are over a thousand cases pending at the (Native) Court of Appeal. Perhaps this is where the special tribunal can come in to address this issue and also it can take all disputes in NCR land cases.

“Even from there, I would see the only appeal possible (on the decisions of the Resident’s Court and Native Court of Appeal) would be in the High Court.”

On the composition of the tribunal, Baru said it should comprise people like retired judges, very senior lawyers and those with experience in law and court proceedings.

“If the state government is not responding to this proposal as soon as possible, we are also proposing that the Civil Court, which means the judiciary or federal government, should take up this issue.

“Our proposal is there would be a special section in the High Court level specially accorded to determine and hear NCR cases, especially for Sabah and Sarawak. I know Sabah is not hearing as many cases as in Sarawak, but I expect that Sabah will soon be flooded with the same problem.”

Based on PKR’s record, Baru said the number of NCR land cases pending in the court throughout the state was 316, with the earliest recorded in 1999, adding that the number of cases was increasing and that they received not less than five cases per month.