Tuesday, December 7

Appointment creates judicial history for High Court of Sabah and S’wak

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SIBU: The appointment of three eminent members of the Sarawak Bar to the Bench created judicial history for the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak.The three are John Ko, Steven Chung and Lee Heng Chiong.

President of the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak (AAS), Frank Tang King Hung, said this would not have been possible if not for the Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak tireless efforts to encourage and fight for judicial appointments from amongst the members of the Sabah and Sarawak Bars.

Speaking at the opening of Legal Year 2010 held at the Court house here yesterday, Tang said advocates in the state were generally very receptive of innovative ideas to increase the efficiency of the Judiciary, to expedite the judicial process and to curb wastage of judicial time.

“But I have to say that the implementation of the new court tracking system is not without shortcomings, most probably due to inadequate infrastructure and shortage of manpower.

“To put it mildly, the outcome is akin to running a Windows 7 program on a personal computer with a Pentium 1 microprocessor,” he pointed out.

He said the transfer of cases from one court to another required the new judge to read and familiarize the facts of the cases, which could not be done due to obvious time constraints.

Thus, he said there have been instances of the new presiding judge through unfamiliarity of the history of the case before he or her make ex-parte order or decree which run counter to a previous order made by another Judge in another interlocutory matter concerning the same suit.

The result, he said, an application would be made to set aside this ex-parte order which meant another statistic to be dispose of, thereby negativing the very purpose of the new tracking system.

Notwithstanding the shortcomings, the general feeling among members of the Sarawak Bar was that the system was good but presently, the judiciary simply did not have the expertise and the manpower necessary to run it successfully and to exact maximum benefit from it, he said.

Tang said the new court tracking system obviously needed a lot of fine tuning and in this respect, the Sarawak Bar was prepared to assist and cooperate to make the system workable for the benefit of all parties.

“It is a fact that Judges and judicial officers are already over-stretched, overworked and under tremendous stress.  To expect them to dispose all pre-2008 cases before February, 2010 is an unreasonable task for them to perform, without adverse consequences to advocates and litigants alike.

“Many of them have young families with whom they should and are expected to spend some quality time.  With deadlines to meet and the Key Performance Index by which their performance will be measured hanging over their heads, how on earth can anyone expect them to do justice to the cases that they hear and dispose of?

“If a deadline for disposal of cases must be given, it must be reasonable and realistic and not set arbitrarily.  In fixing hearing dates, courts should take into account the availability of advocates, especially when rescheduling cases, the availability of the litigants and their witnesses, particularly if they are expert or professional witnesses, government servants and police officers,” he said.

Sarawak Bar, Tang pointed out, was strongly against cases being fixed for hearing on public holidays and weekends; and after government office hours, except with the consent of all parties.