KOTA KINABALU: Very little efforts have been made to compile judgements made at Native Courts in Sabah to serve as references, said Sabah and Sarawak High Court Chief Judge Tan Sri Richard Malanjum.
He said this was a shame since most lawyers practising in Sabah today comprise natives.
“We lack materials, so how will District Chiefs’ (at Native Courts) mete their sentences? There are no references. We need to compile a book,” he said.
Therefore, Malanjum hoped the Symposium on Sabah Native Customary Rights held at Universiti Malaysia Sabah yesterday and today would be able to address this issue.
“We are very unstructured and have no fixed programmes. There is no direction and there is also a lack of reference materials,” he said regarding the entire Native Court system in Sabah.
Due to the lack of resources, District Chiefs have to cite evidence from the Civil Court, Malajum said.
“This is a problem because native laws are passed on orally.
“For instance, the civil court would require evidence in writing when making a claim. It is different in native law – although my name might not be in a land deed, if I can prove my grandmother planted a fruit tree on that land, I can claim for the fruits produced until the tree dies,” he explained.
At the same time, Malanjum, who is also the presiding judge for the Native Court of Appeal, stressed on the importance of the Native Courts in Sabah.
“About 60 per cent of the population in Sabah use the services of the Native Courts and in Sarawak, about 70 per cent. There could be around three million people using the services of the Native Court,” he said.
The Native Court handles cases ranging from family disagreements to land issues.
Malajum also emphasised that there is a need for an independent Native Court which is on par with that of the civil court and Syariah Court in the country.
However, in order to attain that stature, the Native Court must have qualified individuals to run it and be properly structured and established, he said.
“We need to establish a Native Court that is free and independent, where the appointment of District Chiefs is not made by ministers. That way, the people will be able to trust us,” he said.
Malanjum also expressed worry on the lack of interest among youths to learn about the Native Court.
“We need to pique their interest, they are lacking of respect for the Native Court. Why is it that the Native Court has lost its shine?” he lamented.
At the same time, Malanjum also mentioned the construction of the Native Institute, which will be ready by 2015.
“It is being constructed. We need to fill it up with reference materials and let it become a centre for students to do research work,” he said.
The Native Institute is a Federal Government project which will also serve as a centre for the Native Court of Appeal.