KUCHING: Lawyers and other stakeholders should look into the proposal of having a Land Tribunal or dedicated court to deal with native customary rights (NCR) land cases in Sarawak and Sabah.
Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum said the disposal of NCR land cases was the toughest challenge faced by the courts in both states.
“Each year the figure keeps on increasing. There is now a floating idea of either setting up a Land Tribunal or dedicated court to deal with these cases.
“Perhaps members of the Bar and other interested stakeholders can give their input into this floating idea,” he said at the opening of the legal year here yesterday.
However, Malanjum said there must be sufficient lawyers handling NCR cases if such fast-track facilities were made available.
He called on the Sarawak Advocates Association (SAA) and Sabah Law Association (SLA) to address this problem.
On the judiciary’s part, he said there were plans to organise more talks by those familiar with native customs related to land.
“Such information will assist in better understanding of NCR cases,” he said.
He also urged judges and judicial officers in Sabah and Sarawak to further improve their skills in writing good judgments.
“We have quite a number of unique laws such as the Land Ordinances and Limitation Ordinances in the two states. Your interpretations of their provisions will go a long way in the development of jurisprudence in this country,” he said.
Malanjum also said the High Courts of Sabah and Sarawak had disposed of 7,144 out of 9,047 civil cases pending and 638 out of 967 criminal cases pending last year.
The Sessions Courts disposed of 5,819 out of 7,226 civil cases and 8,186 out of 8,296 criminal cases, while the magistrates courts disposed of 18,418 out of 22,468 civil cases and 29,746 out of 36,794 criminal cases pending.
In terms of performance, he said the subordinate courts were almost on target to meet the timeline of 12 months for disposal of civil cases and six months for criminal cases in the Sessions Courts and six and three months respectively in the magistrates courts.
“As for the High Court, it is still struggling to meet the timeline as given to the Sessions Court. With the addition of two newly-appointed Judicial Commissioners I am confident that the High Court will be able to perform as well as the subordinate courts,” he said.
Meanwhile, SAA president Khairil Azmi Mohd Hasbie urged the courts to rise above religious and racial prejudice affecting the country and to adjudicate sensitive matters based on facts, evidence and the law.
“The turmoil and uncertainty that grip many segments of Malaysian society today following government pronouncements and the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the Herald case mean that the public’s attention is trained on the judiciary and its ability to resolve a dispute that originated from the exercise of ministerial power under a statute,” he said.
As such, he said Malaysians placed their hope in the judiciary’s independence and impartiality.
“We ask that the courts dispense justice fairly to all those who come seeking it, without fear or favour,” he added.
Earlier, members of the judiciary and legal fraternity walked from Pullman Hotel to the old court building here to mark the start of the legal year.
The procession was led by Chief Justice of Malaysia Tun Arifin Zakaria, Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of the High Court of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Malanjum, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri and Kuching City North Commission Datuk Bandar Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai.