KUCHING, April 14 — Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen welcomes the High Court’s decision to admit former Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Richard Malanjum, a Sabahan, to the Roll of advocates in Sarawak.

The Stampin MP and Kota Sentosa assemblyman said he was certain that Malanjum’s admission to the Sarawak Bar will surely help in the fight of the oppressed native customary rights (NCR) landowners against “the power that be”.

“It will add to the pool of Sarawak lawyers fighting for the NCR landowners who have been displaced from their own land by the State Government.

“There may be some who disagree with his admission to the Sarawak Bar, but it is my view that he has done enough for the good of the judicial system in Sarawak and the interests of the people of Sarawak and laid down some principles of law that benefits our people to satisfy the “Sarawak connections” which is the key consideration for admission to the Sarawak Bar.

“I hope he will continue to contribute to the betterment of the State,” he said in a statement today.

Chong also said that when Malanjum was the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak and subsequently the Chief Justice of Malaysia, he had brought great reforms in the Court’s management.

He pointed out that because of such reforms, the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak had been the modal state in Malaysia for the implementation of e-Court and e-filing system.

“More importantly, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum had, during his days on the Bench, delivered many judgments in the defence of Sarawak’s Native Customary Rights (NCR) landowners in the face of oppression by the State laws.

 “In one of his many judgments in the Federal Court, he had even made very critical remarks on Section 5(3) and (4) of the Sarawak Land Code which is the law on extinguishment of Native Customary Rights on land.

Chong in the statement that part of Malanjum’s judgment include:

“Suffice it for me to say here that if anything, the courts below should have been put on guard as to the adverse effect of the impugned sections to the livelihood and very existence of the natives. By merely looking at the impugned sections (Sections 5(3) and (4) of Sarawak Land Code), it gives one the impression that it is too vague, too broad, unfettered and untrammeled in that they may be open to abuse. That surely cannot be within the spirit of the fundamental rights embedded in the Federal Constitution, in particular arts. 5 (the right to life), 8 (equality before the law) and 13 (right to property).”

“There is hardly any guideline or basis upon which extinguishment of native customary rights may be done. . . . With these words there is nothing to prevent the Minister who is answerable to no one, not even to the Sarawak State Assembly or the Tuan Yang Terutama, from issuing directions to extinguish all existing native customary rights in Sarawak. The millions of natives whose livelihood and their future generations depend entirely on the land can be made landless by a stroke of the pen in any event. They may end up as squatters in their own lands where they and their ancestors have been living for generations . . . .”

On April 12, The High Court in Kuching dismissed a fresh originating summons filed by lawyer Voon Lee Shan against the admission of Malanjum, a Sabahan, as an advocate in Sarawak.

Judicial Commissioner Alexander Siew dismissed it with cost of RM10,000 to be paid by Voon to Malanjum, in effect affirming an earlier decision of High Court Judge Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim on September 15, 2020, in admitting Malanjum into the Sarawak Roll of Advocates following no objection from the Advocates Association of Sarawak.

Voon’s intervener petition to get a court declaration on Malanjum’s admission to the Sarawak Bar was dismissed because Malanjun had complied with provisions that he has “Sarawak connection”.

The Advocates Ordinance 1953 states only those with Sarawak connection can practise in Sarawak and a person is deemed to have Sarawak connection if they are born in the state, have been a resident here for a continuous period of five years or more, and are domiciled in Sarawak. — Borneo Post Online