Tuesday, June 18

Relocation about-turn

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High Court Registrar’s May 1 move off, unclear if decision cancelled or put on hold

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

KUCHING: The relocation of the Registrar of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak, from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu will not take place on May 1 as initially announced.

This was stated in an official letter sighted by The Borneo Post, which was dated yesterday (April 23) and signed by Federal Court Chief Registrar Dato Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar.

“The Office wishes to inform that the relocation of the Registrar of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu will not be implemented on May 1, 2019,” read the letter.

However, the letter made no mention of the reason for the decision, nor did it state whether the relocation of the Registrar had been scrapped, or merely deferred to another date.

Commenting on the decision, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said he was ‘grateful’ to the federal government for listening to the people of Sarawak.

“The Federal Constitution is the highest law of the land and everyone, including the (de facto) Law Minister (Datuk Liew Vui Keong) and the Prime Minister, must respect it.”

When asked if he felt yesterday’s announcement meant the relocation will not take place or that it had been merely put on hold, Abdul Karim said he hoped to see the Registrar remain in Kuching.

Meanwhile, Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) secretary-general George Lo said he lauded the decision not to carry out the relocation of the High Court Registrar on May 1.

He opined that the decision was made for the purpose of compliance with Article 121(4) of the Federal Constitution, in respect to consulting the chief ministers of Sarawak and Sabah.

“Even though there is no law that the High Court principal registry shall be in Kuching, the fact remains that the Registry has been in Kuching since the formation of Malaysia. If there is a need to relocate the Registry, there must be proper consultation and the merits of relocation ought to be ventilated,” he said.

Lo stressed that an arbitrary decision made without any consultation would be seen as ‘riding roughshod’ over the views and wishes of Sarawakians.

Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri

In a statement yesterday, Batang Sadong MP Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the latest announcement proved that when the people of Sarawak stood united, the state’s constitutional rights could be protected.

“This goes to show that we are capable of doing things particularly when it comes to protecting the rights of Sarawak.

“Through their strong objection regardless of race and political views, the people used their power of speech to criticise the decision made which violated Article 121(4) of the Federal Constitution,” she said.

The former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department added that although the announcement was a ‘relief’, it showed that Sarawakians needed to be constantly cautious of Putrajaya’s actions in the future.

The initial decision to relocate the High Court Registrar was revealed in an official government letter dated April 19 – a move which shocked many as the Registrar had been located in Kuching since the formation of Malaysia.

In trying to explain the rationale behind the move, de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong on April 21 said: “There is nothing in law or in the Constitution which says that the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak Registry shall remain in Kuching forever.”

He disclosed that the decision was made by the country’s of four judges sometime in March this year, and that it was a ‘purely judicial decision’ to which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong granted his royal assent early this month upon the advice of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Liew also said that former Chief Judge Tan Sri Richard Malanjum had written to Dr Mahatir in March for permission to move the Registrar to Kota Kinabalu, premised on several reasons on which the prime minister consented.

In a press conference on Monday, Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting announced that he would be taking the federal government to court over the relocation decision as it was a breach of the Federal Constitution.

This was because the decision was not made in accordance with Article 121(4) of the Federal Constitution, which reads: ‘In determining where the principal registry of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak is to be, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall act on the advice of the prime minister, who shall consult the chief ministers of the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the Chief Judge of the High Court’. Ting had said that since Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was not consulted on the move as mandatorily required, the decision to relocate the Registrar was therefore unconstitutional.

The Chief Minister’s Office in a statement Monday had confirmed that there was no consultation by Dr Mahathir with Abang Johari on the issue, and also branded the move as unconstitutional.