SIBU: Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjun wants the relevant authorities to consider seriously the establishment of a land tribunal with members knowledgable in native land claims to deal with the tedious native customary rights (NCR) cases in the two states.
Speaking at the opening of Sabah and Sarawak Legal Year 2016 yesterday, he said the other alternative to handle such cases was to allow reconstituted Bumiputra/Native Court with members familiar in the native land claims and dispute to hear them.
The 2016 Legal Year was launched by Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Malaysia Tun Ariffin Zakaria, who also led a mini-procession covering about 1km from the town square to the court house.
Over 100 people, comprising judges, magistrates and lawyers from the two states, took part in the procession.
“Since it is of interest to more than four million natives in both Sabah and Sarawak, the Native Court System could be accorded the same standing as the Syariah Court and to include it under the umbrella of Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution,” Malanjun added.
The rational for the setting up of a land tribunal, he said, was because the two states were still burdened by cases on NCR land issues.
“Last year in Sarawak, there were 20 new cases registered. Sibu and Kuching recorded the most with seven cases each while Miri and Bintulu each received three cases. The total disposal last year was 20 leaving 28 still pending,” he added.
As for Sabah, 10 new cases were registered last year where only five were still pending.
He said although the number of such cases was small, it took very long to complete one NCR case.
“It is a tedious process involving many witnesses and many interpreters due to dialect problems. Sabah alone has no less than 45 known dialects while Sarawak has more,” he said.
To deal with NCR cases, Malanjun said, “one has to be a historian, an anthrologist, a spiritualist and at times a semi-politician”.
This was so as NCR cases involved not only the legal issues but also the cultural and traditional elements or dimensions.
“If the latter two elements are ignored, the natives will be most unhappy, many even performed the miring ceremony in the court premises, and will not accept the decision of the court even though it may have impeccably followed the law,” he said.
On environmental-related cases in 2015, he said there had been a marked improvement in the sentencing of wildlife traffickers, including those who destroyed the environment.
Last year, 52 cases were registered in Sabah against 28 in Sarawak.
On disposal of cases through mediation, he said in Sarawak at all levels of the courts, there were a total of 107 successful mediation out of 260 cases referred. In Sabah an equal number of cases were also settled that way with Kota Kinabalu alone succeeding in 37 cases out of 50 cases referred.