Did judicial scandals include Sarawak NCR land cases? Dayak group asks

DNC president Paul Raja says the indigenous communities in Sarawak are very disturbed with the allegations of conspiracy and collusion among the judges and lawyers and fixing of judgments. ― Picture by Sulok Tawie
DNC president Paul Raja says the indigenous communities in Sarawak are very disturbed with the allegations of conspiracy and collusion among the judges and lawyers and fixing of judgments. ― Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Feb 17 ― Dayak National Congress (DNC) president Paul Raja today called for a setting up of Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate any allegation of wrongdoing in the judiciary.

He said the investigation should cover allegations made by Court of Appeal Judge Justice Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer in his affidavit and the judicial judgments on Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands in Sarawak.

He said the reading of Hamid’s affidavit “shudders us and send chills down our spines”, and questioned whether the allegations included NCR land cases from Sarawak.

“We have read many rumours, complaints and whispering about scandals, misconducts and criminal conducts flowing down the corridors of the Palace of Justice,” Raja, a prominent NCR land lawyer, said.

Raja said the indigenous communities in Sarawak are very disturbed with the allegations of conspiracy and collusion among the judges and lawyers and fixing of judgments.

“We would like to know whether these allegations of scandals are also involving NCR land cases from Sarawak.

“We have seen lately that there has been a sudden about turn by the courts on NCR land cases. With just three Federal Court decisions, namely, TR Sandah, TR Nyutan and TR Massa, the indigenous peoples’ rights over their NCR lands are suddenly decimated,” he claimed.

He said since the decision of Adong Bin Kuwau in 1997, the first of its kind in Malaysia, there has been an upward movement in the courts in recognizing of native customary land.

“Then in 2001, Nor Nyawai became the first case in Sarawak. After that came other important cases like Sagong Tasi in 2005 then Madelli Bin Salleh in 2007,” Raja said.

He asserted since then Malaysian Courts have been continuously recognising native land rights in keeping up with international standard of justice on indigenous people’s rights.

“That has been the trend until the legal tragedy in TR Sandah in December 2016, which effectively put an end to NCR land claims. This was was followed by TR Nyutan in October 2017 and TR Massa in November 2017,” he said, adding that these three cases, like asteroids that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs from the earth, have effectively terminated NCR land claims.

Raja said the indigenous people are asking, legitimately, the question, what can justify the total about turn by the courts, having regards to a number of recognitions for the past 20 over years.

“Has it been a mistake by those judges over all those years?” he asked.

He said it is a well-known fact that the government of Sarawak is averse to all NCR land claims as the suits are against them.

“With volume of accusations made against the judiciary, the indigenous people are very concerned whether the judiciary had also assisted the state government against their NCR land cases,” he said, stressing that the indigenous people have the right to know the truth on these very serious allegations. 

He said what Hamid has said in his affidavit lend credence to the allegations and suspicions against the judiciary.

He said Hamid must not be persecuted for his courage to speak up, but must be treated fairly.

“A whistle-blower must not be victimised as used to be under the past regime. All his complaints must be investigated to ascertain their truth. There must be no cover-up any quarters,” he added.

Raja said if what have been alleged are found to be true, the law must take its course and there must be courage on the part of the current regime to purge corrupt judges if there is to be at any hope or at all to restore confidence in the courts.

He said the government must act and act decisively and expeditiously with a sense of urgency and that there should be no cover-up and procrastination.