Putrajaya shifts High Court registry from Sarawak to Sabah

The Prime Minister's Office is pictured in Putrajaya December 6, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
The Prime Minister's Office is pictured in Putrajaya December 6, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — The federal government is relocating the Registrar of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu effective May 1, according to a circular leaked online.

Chief Registrar of the Federal Court Datuk Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar announced the unusual move in a circular dated April 19 and reportedly sent to the country’s legal bodies and fraternity.

East Malaysian lawyers and lawmakers have expressed shock and concern over the relocation, with some questioning the legality and constitutionality of the move.

“Did the prime minister consult the chief ministers of Sabah and Sarawak and the Chief Judge of the High Court? I don’t think so,” lawyer Shankar Ram told the DayakDaily portal.

According to the Federal Constitution, such a move must be through the royal assent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the prime minister, following the latter’s consultation with the two chief ministers and the head of the High Court.

In Latifah’s circular, it is stated that the Agong gave his consent for the move.

PKR’s Batu Lintang representative See Chee How demanded an explanation from both Putrajaya and Petrajaya over the relocation, pointing out that it was unprecedented in the history of the courts.

The Sarawak assemblyman was similarly doubtful that the state government was consulted prior to the decision to relocate the registry.

“For more than 50 years, there has never been any complaint that this principal Registry in Kuching has failed in any way to discharge its duties, obligations and functions in any manner nor failure or negligence on the part of the staffs serving in the Registry Office,” See said in a statement cited on the Borneo Post website.

“It is also to my understanding that members of the Advocates Association of Sarawak were not formally consulted and they did not agree to the relocation of this principal Registry Office from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu.”

He further argued that the consultation should not be limited to the heads of the state governments and must also extend to the legal community as it would have major ramifications to their activities.

See, who is both a lawyer and a lawmaker, then urged the Sarawak government to contest the move in order to keep the registry in the state.

The Federal Court circular did not explain the reason for the relocation.

The Pakatan Harapan federal government is aligned with the Sabah state government but not with the GPS coalition that controls Sarawak.

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