SIBU: For the cause of justice and the rule of law, the Sabah and Sarawak Judiciary will consider views, comments and suggestions from all parties, and take necessary steps when required.
In giving the assurance, Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Richard Malanjum, said adjustments to the present working system have been and would be made including issuance of circulars to affected parties on any change adopted by the court.
“So long as they do not conflict with the theme of this year’s Legal Year – ‘Justice with Quality and Efficiency’,” he pointed out in his speech on the occasion of the Opening of the Legal Year 2010 at Sibu Courthouse yesterday.
Earlier, accompanied by the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong and chairman of the Sibu Municipal Council Datuk Tiong Thai King, Richard joined in a procession from the Town Square to the courthouse en route Morshidi Sidek Road, Raminway and Kpg Nyabor Road.
A police band led the procession which also saw the participation of about 200 judges and lawyers from Sabah and Sarawak. They included 12 high court judges and judicial commissioners from Sabah and Sarawak.
Richard said last year the courts of Sabah and Sarawak continued to do their best to dispense justice and to clear the backlog of cases.
New approaches in the clearance of cases were adopted, in particular the implementation of the Tracking system for the major towns, he added.
He also pointed out that there were bound to be glitches in the beginning of any change, but these could be overcome with the cooperation and patience of the parties concerned, thus enabling all parties to be ready for hearings.
“Let us give the Tracking system a chance. It has just been implemented about two months ago.
“As for manpower, it is not the numbers that count but getting them familiar with the new System.
“Given time and with some fine-tuning, the system should produce positive results in the next few months,” he said.
Added Richard: “Even today cases are fixed not less than three months in advance thus enabling all parties to be ready for hearings.
“Being a private practitioner before, I did experience waiting for hours for trial to begin as the Bench was busy mentioning cases and dealing with remand applications.
“The Tracking System is intended to solve the problem as trial can now begin on time when the bench is still fresh and alert.”
According to him, the unfortunate incidents highlighted by the president of Advocates Association Sarawak were investigated but found to be isolated incidents and happened early in the implementation of the Tracking System.
Steps have been taken to avoid such recurrences, he said, while encouraging users of the courts to inform the relevant officers on the problems they encounter when dealing with the courts.
Notices have been put up in strategic locations of the court houses with names and contacts of those officers concerned, he said, adding that they should utilize the channel provided.
In addition, he said, regular meetings were, are and would be held between the courts and lawyers to clear any problem before it becomes a cause of misunderstanding.
On some of the basic truths in Sabah and Sarawak, Richard lamented that judges and judicial officers did not get pleasure in working hard; that majority of them were overworked; and there were still pending cases to be disposed of.
However, he said judges and judicial officers in East Malaysia held beliefs that negative perception of the courts was still lingering in particular on the long waiting period for disposal of cases; that they were paid to serve the country, and it was indeed a national service especially those from the Bar; and the courts of Sabah and Sarawak could be managed to be as good as any other jurisdictions that most admire today.
Bearing in mind the truths and the beliefs, judges and judicial officers of the courts of Sabah and Sarawak have therefore nurtured a vision and a mission.
The vision, he pointed out, was to be equal to any of the best judiciaries in this part of the world by mid 2010, and the mission was to meet the targets on the waiting periods in the disposal of cases.
He disclosed that it was expected that by the end of April, the trial of civil cases would begin within 18 months from the date of registration of the case.
For criminal cases, the trial would begin within six months from the date of being charged; corruption cases will be disposed of within six to nine months from the date of being charged; and appeals – civil and criminal- will be disposed of within three months of filing of notice of appeal.
As for commercial cases, trial would begin within three to six months from the date of service of the cause papers.
“The judges and judicial officers do have hectic times in the months ahead. However, once we have met the target periods then I am sure all will be able to relax a little and at the same time take pride in the work done.
“Lest it may be misunderstood, in attempting to achieve the targets the courts of Sabah and Sarawak will not sacrifice justice on altar of statistics. At the same time, we would want to maximize judicial time. That may be the reason why some advocates felt being hurried.
“It should be a delight to advocates to be able to inform their clients without having to guess that their cases would be heard within target periods,” he said.
Richard also urged advocates in East Malaysia to continue to assist and cooperate with the judiciary in its endeavour to complete the mission which was not a mission impossible.
He said it might also be of interest to know that in the meeting yesterday, high court and sessions court judges were encouraged to specialize in the area or areas of the law of their choice.
Hopefully, he said in six months time a judge in Kuching who specialised, for example in shipping, would go to Kota Kinabalu upon request by the parties to hear complex shipping cases.
In that way, quality in the judgement is enhanced as the Judge is familiar with that area of the law, he said.