Absent teacher trial: Former students represent themselves


The three plaintiffs Rusiah (right), Nur Natasha (left) and Calvina (middle) outside the courtroom on Thursday after the court informed that no adjournment was granted for their trial.

KOTA KINABALU (Oct 20): Two applications seeking an adjournment for the trial filed by three former students of a secondary school in Kota Belud against their former English language teacher for allegedly being absent in class were rejected and their trial proceeded at the High Court here on Thursday with the plaintiffs representing themselves.

Justice Leonard David Shim disallowed another postponement for the trial of the suit filed by Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali and Calvina Angayung, all aged 21, since the trial date had been given long ago and previously an adjournment was already allowed by the same court for this trial.

In his decision, the judge said that from the court’s record, Messrs Roxana and Co was still on record as advocate for the plaintiffs.

“The discharge and appointment of counsel is a matter between the plaintiffs and their advocates.

“The trial date has been given long ago and in addition the court had allowed adjournment for the trial, until today (October 20) no formal application for discharge was filed and no reason given for failure to do so,” said the judge.

Leonard further said that the court had earlier Thursday morning directed for the trial to proceed and the court’s decision was maintained.

“Trial to proceed, the three plaintiffs are here, proceed with self represented,” he said.

Two oral applications were made separately on different times on Thursday morning by the second and third plaintiffs, urging the court to grant another postponement of the trial which was fixed for two days on the grounds that they still had not engaged any lawyer to represent them.

During the first postponement application, the judge ruled that “your lawyer did not present today even though ample time had been given for them to make application to withdraw as plaintiffs’ advocate”.

The judge further said that this was a 2020 case which involved public interest and having granted time and adjournment including the previous trial who enabled plaintiffs and their advocate to take the necessary action, the court was minded to proceed with the continuation of trial as there appeared to be no more application for appropriate action taken by the plaintiffs’ counsel despite being given time and opportunity to do so.

“The trial will proceed on the basis that the plaintiffs for the time being are self represented as their counsel not present,” explained the judge.

In both the plaintiffs’ adjournment applications, they submitted that there were two prospective lawyers who were interested to represent them in this suit.

However, the plaintiffs claimed that the two lawyers were unable to make it for them because they were preoccupied in October and November.

The plaintiffs also submitted that they were very careful this time in choosing who will represent them because they did not want a similar situation happen again in future.

They also tendered documentary evidence regarding their efforts to look for lawyer which started on September 12.

In reply, Senior Federal Counsel Mohd Hafizi Abd Halim, who acted for the defendants, earlier raised no objection to the plaintiffs’ first adjournment application. However after the court ordered for the trial to proceed, the defendants had objected to the second postponement application and prayed for the plaintiffs’ claims be dismissed with costs.

“Since they are not following the court’s instruction to proceed with the trial today, the defendants now objected to any further adjournment. The plaintiffs had actually prepared and served their witness statements and therefore, they should be able to proceed with the matter.

“For today, the plaintiffs can actually proceed with the trial by calling among themselves to be the witness and testify before this court,” Mohd Hafizi submitted.

The trial proceeded with the calling of the first plaintiff, Rusiah as the third witness.

In her evidence, she testified that this suit was filed because they wanted to claim their rights for allegedly not getting proper lesson for English language subject while they were in form four.

Rusiah, who is currently unemployed, claimed in her testimony that she failed in her English language subject when she was in form four allegedly because of the absence of the teacher at the classroom.

She further testified that she did make effort to study for the said subject but there were some formats that she could not understand.

The plaintiff said that she and her friends had complained about the teacher referred to as Mr JJ who allegedly did not enter their class for the subject, to their principal and classroom teacher at that time but no action had been taken by the school.

She also testified that there was allegedly no extra class or tuition for English language subject given to them while they were in form four even though she claimed that they had requested for it.

The three plaintiffs had filed the suit on December 22, 2020 naming Mohd Jainal Jamran, Hj Suid Hj Hanapi (sued in his capacity as the principal of the school), Director-general of Education Malaysia, Minister of Education Malaysia and Government of Malaysia as the first, second, third, fourth and fifth defendants respectively.

Among others they claimed in their suit that the teacher had allegedly failed to turn up in class to teach the subject for seven months in 2015 while the other defendants allegedly did not take reasonable action despite allegedly being informed about the matter.