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Gerawat: Steps taken to make Native Court on par with Civil, Syariah courts
Posted on : 05 Apr 2019  Source of News: The Borneo Post

MIRI: The Native Court is independent and the Sarawak government has taken steps to restructure and elevate it to be on par with the Civil and Syariah courts pending recommendation from the Working Committee directed by the Steering Committee.

In stating this, Dato Gerawat Gala, the Deputy State Legislative Assembly Speaker and Mulu assemblyman, said a study by the working committee is in progress and it will be thorough and comprehensive and involve much field work and engagement with various stakeholders including community leaders.

“It is expected to take up to nine months to complete,” he said.

He was responding to the statement by Paul Raja, president of Dayak National Congress, published in a news portal on April 2, suggesting that Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak (Mais) and the Native Court are not independent.

The later had called for Mais to be an independent institution instead of being placed under the Chief Minister’s Office, saying it should be free from government influence.

Gerawat, a lawyer by profession from the Kelabit community, pointed out that although Mais and the Native Court are administratively part of the Chief Minister’s Office, they are separate institutions with powers and functions as provided for in the Majlis Adat Istiadat Ordinance and the Native Courts Ordinance respectively, and both exercise statutory powers in accordance with these ordinances.

He pointed out that the Native Court of Appeal, which is the highest court, is presided by a judge who is either a judge of the High Court or who is constitutionally qualified to be appointed as a High Court judge.

The president of the Native Court of Appeal is appointed by the Head of State under the Native Courts Ordinance, he added.

“The Native Courts are independent in the exercise of their powers under the Native Courts Ordinance.”

Gerawat said action had already been taken by the state government by setting up a Steering Committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas to study and make recommendations on the restructuring and elevation of the Native Courts of Sarawak, including a review of all related laws and regulations as well as relevant provisions in the State and Federal constitutions.

He said the committee has set up a working committee to study the details of the structure, jurisdiction, judges, and status of the Native Courts vis a vis the civil court and Syariah court.

Legal experts will be engaged to assist the working committee in this study and their recommenadations will be forwarded to the steering committee for review before its submission to the Cabinet, he added.