KOTA KINABALU: Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum has expressed hope that the native court system in East Malaysia be given the same standing as the civil and shariah courts.
He said this would raise the standards of the judicial system in dealing with issues pertaining to the customs of the indigenous people.
“Native laws should be dealt with in a native court, not in a civil court or in the shariah court.
“The natives know better about their customs, they know better about their native land than outsiders,” he said when met by reporters at a legal seminar on ‘Justice and Rights – The Way Forward’ here yesterday.
Malanjum said putting the native court system parallel to other court systems in the country could give native courts the independence they needed when hearing cases.
“At the moment, the native courts are being overseen by state executives. That cannot be right,” he said.
He said there were efforts to raise the standards of the native courts and paperwork was being drafted by the Attorney-General’s (AG) Chambers to that end.
He also hoped progress would be made under the current AG, Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Malanjum added that the Sabah State Native Affairs Council (MHEANS) would include non-Muslim members as most of the indigenous people of Sabah were non-Muslims who relied on their customs as a way of life.
Former AG Abdul Gani Patail believed the AG’s Chambers were still working on it, but said it required time for it to bear fruit.
He explained that although the native court system existed in the Federal Constitution, it lacked proper structure such as was present in civil and shariah courts, which was why there was a need to strengthen the native court system.
Meanwhile, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Maximus Ongkili, who co-chairs the Federal Technical Committee on Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputera Minorities with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Joseph Entulu Belaun, said empowering the native courts had been a long struggle.
“That is why there was mention of establishing superior courts like a high court and court of appeal in the native court system equivalent to the civil and shariah courts,” he said.