Give reasons for Sabah, Sarawak court registry rotation, Putrajaya urged

Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg says the state government was initially against the relocation of the registry from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu.

KUCHING: Putrajaya has been urged to provide reasons for the decision to base the Sabah and Sarawak High Court registry office alternately in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu as part of a 10-year rotation system.

Sarawak senior lawyer Lim Heng Choo said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad must explain why the objection from Sarawak was not accepted.

“It is a legal requirement. No reason has been put forward to justify the need to move the registry from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu,” he told FMT.

Besides, he said, the 10-year rotation for the registry to be based in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu had no legal basis.

“There is no provision under Article 121(4) of the Federal Constitution on the 10-year rotation system,” he said.

It was reported earlier that the Sarawak government had agreed with the decision for the registry office to be based alternately in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu on a 10-year rotation system.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said the state government was initially against the relocation of the registry, but that it eventually reached a “compromise”.

He also said he was informed of the matter at a meeting with the chief registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia and senior members of the judiciary that a decision had been made to move the registry to Kota Kinabalu.

Lim said: “To inform the chief minister that the decision had been made to move the registry is not a consultation as required under Article 121(4).

“If the decision was already made, as claimed by Abang Johari, then the meeting on Tuesday by the chief registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia and senior members of the judiciary was not a consultation but a courtesy call.

“Courtesy call and having a drink is not consultation. A consultation should be meaningful and effective. It must start with the proposal to move the registry from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu and the reasons to do so, together with the Sabah and Sarawak chief ministers,” he told FMT.

In fact, Lim said there was no consultation over the relocation of the registry as the decision had already been made on May 19 when the state legislative assembly passed a resolution to reject the relocation of the registry (from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu).

“Abang Johari should have stood firm (on Sarawak’s decision) and Dr Mahathir must explain why the objection from Sarawak was not accepted.

“He (Abang Johari) is not empowered to make a deal on the 10-year rotation,” he said, adding that Mahathir could only advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after proper and effective consultation with the chief ministers of Sabah and Sarawak.

Meanwhile, Sarawak United Peoples’ Party secretary-general Milton Foo proposed the setting up of a High Court in Sarawak with its own registry.

Calling on the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) MPs to table a motion on this, he said there should be a High Court of Sarawak with its own registry to reflect the three states becoming Malaysia.

“It is absurd that while we have three separate Bars in Malaysia, we only have two high court registries in the country.

“After all, we have separate Bars and state attorney-generals and police commissioners.

“We should have our own Sarawak chief justice and Sabah will have its own,” he said.

Article 121(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution and Courts of Judicature Act 1964 should be amended by MPs to establish a separate High Court of Sarawak to reflect the true spirit of Malaysia Agreement 1963, he said.

This was also in tandem with the motion passed by the Sarawak Legislative Assembly, which unanimously rejected the relocation of the principal registry on April 30, he said.

However, Foo said the ranking of the respective component registries of the high courts in the Federation of Malaysia must be equal.

“All revenue collected by way of fines and court filing fees must be applied to the upkeep and maintenance of the buildings and premises in the respective high courts, as we do not want to see our courts of law in Sarawak to be dilapidated just like the schools in Sarawak,” he added.