KUCHING: The federal government's decision to relocate the Registrar of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu effective May 1 has taken Sarawakian lawyers and lawmakers by surprise, with some questioning whether it is constitutional.
PKR lawyer See Chee How said the government must explain the rationale for the move, pointing out that the principal registry of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak had been located in Kuching since the formation of Malaysia.
He said Article 121(4) of the Federal Constitution stated that in determining the location of the principal registry of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall act on the advice of the Prime Minister, who shall consult with the chief ministers of both states and the Chief Judge of the High Court.
"I am doubtful whether the Sarawak state government was consulted and had given their necessary consent to this relocation of the principal registry office.
"It is also to my understanding that members of the Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) were not formally consulted and they did not agree to the relocation of this principal registry office from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu," See said.
The relocation was announced in a circular dated April 19, signed by Chief Registrar of the Federal Court Datuk Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar and reportedly sent to legal bodies and fraternities in the country.
The circular, which was leaked online, stated that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had consented to the move.
See, who is Batu Lintang assemblyman, said there had never been any complaints in over 50 years that the Registrar's office in Kuching had failed to discharge its duties in any manner or of failure or negligence by its staff.
He urged the Sarawak government, state Attorney General's Chambers and AAS to make concerted efforts to bring up the matter to the federal government and ensure that the Registrar's office would remain in Kuching.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing also noted the provision of Article 121(4) and asked whether Sarawak had lost its right to be consulted over the relocation.
"I suggest that MPs from both Pakatan Harapan and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) stand together and tell Putrajaya that it is unconstitutional to move the registry of the High Court from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu without consulting the chief ministers of Sarawak and Sabah," he said.
GPS is the ruling coalition in Sarawak, which is not aligned to Pakatan.
Meanwhile, AAS president Ranbir Singh said the association was in the process of verifying a few facts on the matter.
"All this weekend we have been discussing it and we need to get certain basic facts correct," he said when contacted, adding that AAS would issue a statement once it had verified the facts.