KUCHING, Jan 16 — Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat today acknowledged that adequate funding was critical to the judiciary carrying out digital reforms aimed at improving efficiency.
Citing an example, she said in order for the judiciary to roll out the various electronic initiatives, the adequate infrastructure must first be in place.
“For instance, in order to expand the e-Courts infrastructure to the rest of the courts in Malaysia, we will have to upgrade our servers and this includes installing new hardware.
“Without adequate funding to actually put in place such reforms, they remain as fanciful as we can imagine them,” she said in her keynote address at the opening of the National Colloquium on Access to Justice 2020 here.
“The overall idea in all these digital reforms is targeted at improving efficiency. This in turn greatly enhances access to justice.”
She urged the relevant federal government departments and other institutions to factor in this significant problem if the judiciary were to evoke any real reform.
“Another important component of reform is the willingness of all stakeholders of the justice system to remain open to evolving ideas,” she said, adding that changes are difficult and they cannot happen if they constantly elicit an allergic response.
On bringing justice to remote communities, Tengku Maimun said it ought to be achieved in two ways.
She said the first is to enhance physical access to justice, adding that to many in the remote areas, formal justice remains merely a figment of the imagination as courthouses in these areas exist only in major towns.
“For example, in Besut and Setiu, locations in Terengganu, residents are required to travel at least 100km to access the nearest Sessions Court in Kuala Terengganu.
“To put matters into perspective, the journey itself takes about two hours. A similar problem exists in Langkawi where its residents are required to travel to Alor Setar.
“Poorer members of the community simply cannot afford the airfare or even the ferry fare,” she said, pointing out that the judiciary has established a Sessions Court in Besut so that residents there and in Setiu will no longer need to make that two-hour journey.
“We are also in the midst of establishing a Sessions in Court in Langkawi so that the trip to Alor Setar will no longer be necessary.
“In fact, after studying the statistics, we have even deemed it reasonable to establish a High Court in Sungai Petani so that its residents and counsel similarly no longer have to suffer long journeys between Sungai Petani and Alor Setar,” the chief justice said.
On the case of larger states of Sabah and Sarawak, she said setting up newer courts may not necessarily alleviate logistical limitations for those in really remote areas.
“For this reason, the judiciary proposes to continue with its Mobile Courts programme with greater vigour,” she said, saying that remoteness may not only be gauged by distance, but also in terms of finances.
“We will find that financial remoteness exists in the urban areas inasmuch as they do in more rural ones.
“To this end, the judiciary’s Mobile Court programme will also be expanded to encompass the urban poor.
“If one cannot access the courts, then the courts will then make an active effort to reach out to them,” she added.