High time current Native Courts system in Sarawak re-looked

Abang Johari (centre), together with (from second right) Sarawak Science Research advisor Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, Assistant Minister of Native Laws and Customs Datuk John Sikie Tayai, Datin Patinggi Dato’ Jumaani Tuanku Bujang, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah and Chief Registrar of Native Courts of Sarawak Datu Michael Dawi Alli, cut the anniversary cake.

KUCHING: A proposal to re-look at the current Native Courts system in Sarawak to make them more autonomous and independent just like other courts has received the nod of approval from Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said he agreed to the proposal as a way forward for the native courts to adept in meeting the demands and challenges of the changing times.

He thus urged for a special committee to be formed comprising members of the legal fraternity, community leaders familiar with the adat (native law) and academicians, to come up with recommendations to the government on the new structure of the native courts.

He said this special committee would study thoroughly the matter so that the court could be elevated and have the same autonomy and independence like the civil and syariah courts.

“(This is) so that we have a proper structure to move towards certain level of quality in our native courts as an institution.

“We will discuss further how we can form this special committee, and let the committee recommend to the government on the structure of the native courts.

“If you want the native courts to be autonomous and independent just like any other courts, then there has to be a thorough study from all angles. Against this background, I am sure we can go forward to a new era,” he said at a dinner to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the office of th Chief Registrar of Native Courts of Sarawak, here on Friday.

It was established in 1993 as a unit under the Chief Minister’s Office, and comes directly under the State Secretary.

Its Chief Registrar Datu Michael Dawi Alli, who spoke earlier, had proposed for the system to be re-looked due to the many challenges to ensure the native courts remain relevant in this digital era.

Abang Johari said he agreed that a re-look and a revisit of the native court system, was necessary. He also said the native law in Sarawak itself has evolved ever since the native court was declared as one of the four courts in Sarawak during the Brooke era.

“Society is now getting more sophisticated. To deal with this sophistication we need to review the system based on our adat,” he said.

On a related matter, Abang Johari suggested that a study be carried out to decide whether land cases were to be dispensed in the native court or the civil court.

He said this was needed following recent amendments to the Sarawak Land Code regarding pemakai menoa and pulau galau.

“I do not know if it’s going to be under civil or native court, but I am sure there will be cases in future concerning ownership of native land cropping up.

“Assuming there are disputes, we have to decide  whether they are going to be dispensed in the civil or native court. I feel a study has to be carried out to determine this,” he said

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Morshidi Abdul Ghani, State Legislative Assembly Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar, Sarawak Science Research advisor Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, and cabinet ministers were among those present at the function.

The chief minister later presented dedicated service mementos to former chief registrars and magistrates of the Native Courts of Sarawak.

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