Dayak NGO asks Sarawak to train Native Court judges

Chief Justice of the Federal Court Tan Sri Richard Malanjum had earlier called for native courts in Sabah and Sarawak to be presided by trained judges. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Chief Justice of the Federal Court Tan Sri Richard Malanjum had earlier called for native courts in Sabah and Sarawak to be presided by trained judges. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUCHING, April 2 — Dayak National Congress (DNC) today called on the Sarawak government to train Native Court judges on the complexities of the legal system and native customary laws.

Its president Paul Raja said Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) is the right institution to provide courses to train them.

He said the courses should include subjects on native customs, court procedure, evidence gathering and jurisprudence.

“Alternatively, the Council of Native Customs and Tradition could set up an institution to train native court officers,” Raja, who is a practising lawyer, said when supporting a suggestion by Chief Justice of the Federal Court Tan Sri Richard Malanjum for native courts in Sabah and Sarawak to be presided by trained judges.

Raja said the country’s top judge’s suggestion is long overdue and should have been implemented by the Sarawak government a long a time ago.

“The responsibility to train the native court judges lies with the state government as native customs are a state matter under the Federal Constitution,” he said.

Raja said DNC wants the native court to be independent from the state government’s influence and must not be a unit in the Chief Minister’s Office.

He said the unit must be upgraded into a department and must be staffed by trained career personnel, instead of retired civil servants who may no longer be willing to work hard.

Speaking to reporters after giving a lecture on Native Culture and Customary Rights at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, Malanjum said the appointments of the native courts judges in Sabah were often due to political support.

He had said a person should undergo specific training in law to become a judge, adding that as far as he was aware, there were no trained judges handling the native court affairs in Sabah.

Malanjum had also suggested that native court judges should have a Diploma in Law to preside over native courts, saying that when they judge, they should know what is required by the law.

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