Baru Bian agrees East Malaysian judge must be present in relevant Court of Appeal cases

Works Minister Baru Bian speaks to reporters in his office in Kuala Lumpur April 26, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Works Minister Baru Bian speaks to reporters in his office in Kuala Lumpur April 26, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUCHING, June 16 — Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian today said one of the Court of Appeal (CoA) judges hearing cases originating from the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak must come from either of the two states.

He said he had raised this issue before pertaining to cases from Sabah and Sarawak which were being appealed by the losing parties before the Court of Appeal or the Federal Court.

“In fact, the judicial review in Tuai rumah Sandah anak Tabau’s appeal case before the Federal Court is coming soon. One of the issues that will be raised in this judicial review is on composition of judges hearing the appeal,” he told reporters after attending the Gawai Dayak Open House hosted by Dayak state ministers and assistant ministers from Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) here.

Baru said his legal firm, which will represent Tuai Rumah Sandah anak Tabau in the judicial review, will raise the issue on the composition of the judges of the Federal Court that reversed the decision of the High Court and Court of Appeal in favour of the state government.

The five federal court judges who heard the state government’s appeal were all from Peninsular Malaysia.

They allowed the state government’s appeal relating to the native customary rights land, saying that the Iban Adat or Customary Laws on territorial domain and communal forest reserves had no force of law.

Baru said he agrees that there is no clear provision of the law relating to the composition of judges hearing appeal cases from the Borneo states.

“But there was the understanding that we have had in the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report. So I do hope that this will be considered by the Special Cabinet Steering Committee to have one judge from the Borneo states sitting in appeal cases. It is a very relevant issue,” he said when responding to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg’s statement last night.

“This is one of the issues which has to be decided. So we just leave it as such for the time being because there are still many other issues still under discussion,” he said.

Baru said solving the composition issue may require an amendment to the Federal Constitution.

“Eventually, I think that will probably be necessary because there has to be a clear provision of the law so that there should not be any debate on the matter. So I think that will be a reasonable conclusion,” he said.

He said the composition issue is still under discussion in the technical committee before it is raised in the steering committee.

On the issue of judges with “Borneo experiences” to hear appeal cases from the Borneo states, Baru, who is also works minister, said the Federal Court has already made some decisions on the matter.

“But I think the ‘Borneo experience’ could apply to any of the judges from Peninsular Malaysia, but they must have the exposure in the context of Sarawak and Sabah.

“I think that will probably be a more acceptable interpretation and understanding in terms of the ‘Borneo experience’. When we talk about the ‘Borneo experience’, we talk about the knowledge and customs of the people.

“Basically, that is the issue. We also have to give credit to the judges because they are learned people of law and basically, experiences are an additional thing to help them decide cases.

“That is crucial in the context of Sarawak and Sabah,” he said.

In his speech at the state-level Gawai Dayak celebrations last night, Abang Johari had said the state government wanted one judge from the Borneo states to hear appeal cases originating from the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak.

He asserted they knew the local condition and situation and way of life of the local communities.

The chief minister had said he had raised the matter for the steering committee to look into.

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