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Court nullifies termination of native chief

 | April 6, 2012

The Kuching High Court has ordered the state government to pay a sacked longhouse chief arrears backdated to April 1, 2011.

KUCHING: The Kuching High Court today nullified a state government decision to terminate its ’employee’ longhouse chief (Tuai Rumah) Eri Ajok of Kampung Empelas.

Eri’s appointment as headman of Kampung Empelas longhouse was terminated on March 28, 2011 and took effect on April 1, 2011.

The letter was signed by the Simunjan district officer allegedly upon the recommendations of Simunjan assemblyman Naroden Majais. Eri it appeared was a victim of an ongoing spat between Naroden and people-friendly Batang Sadong MP Nancy Shukri.

However the point in court was that Eri was only informed of his termination two-and-a-half months after it took effect and he was paid the honorarium four-and-a-half months later.

Justice Rhodzariah Bujang in delivering her judgment yesterday described the termination as “bad in law and the letter of termination null and void and ordered that Eri be paid the arrears of his honorarium from April 2011 until to-date.

She said whilst it was noted that the government is vested with the “complete discretion” on who to appoint as Tuai Rumah (longhouse chief), the “inordinate delay in conveying the decision on the termination is in complete defiance of reason and logic.”

“The decision to terminate, even if the option of payment of the honorarium was chosen, must logically and of necessity be communicated to a Tuai Rumah before the effective date of termination or at the very least, on the very day of the termination itself and ideally, the honorarium be paid at the same time as when the decision is communicated.

“With respect to the respondents (government), I am compelled to ask this pertinent question: What is the use and where lies the logic of telling a man that he is longer the anointed leader long after his appointment has been revoked?

“It is not only unfair to the applicant (Eri) but to the community he serves for there are ramifications following such a delay.

“The applicant would and could have happily performed his official duties as Tuai Rumah such as the common act of certifying or verifying documents for his people when in fact he was no longer holding the post as one.

“In that circumstance, the certification or verification would be rendered invalid and may even have legal repercussions, to the owner of the documents,” she said.

Call to reinstate others

Justice Rhodzariah added that the “act of notifying Eri of his termination many months after the effective date, had rendered the termination bad in law” and the letter of termination “null and void”.

“The decision to terminate him ought to be quashed,” she said.

The court awarded Eri costs of RM10,000.

Eri was represented by See Chee How while the state government was represented by Saferi Ali of the state Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Meanwhile, See said that he is writing a letter to the State Secretary asking for six other Tuai Rumah from Kanowit who have been dismissed to be reinstated.

They were dismissed following allegations that they supported the opposition during last April’s state election.

Scores of Tuai Rumah and Ketua Kaum (community leaders) in the state had their appointments revoked for a similar offence.


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