KOTA KINABALU - The Native Court system needs to be urgently revamped in its administrative role and functions to make it purely non-political and adhere strictly to the requirement of native non-Muslim adat or custom.
Former SAPP Sepanggar Member of Parliament-cum-adat administrator Datuk Eric Majimbun in proposing this said he fully supported Chief justice of Malaysia, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, that the post of native court judge or native chief should be given to those trained for the job and that politicians should not be involved in appointing them.
“The Native Court must be purely non-Muslim, managed by non-Muslim native officers appointed in accordance to their training and long experience in the administration of adat," said Majimbun, who was a district chief of Kota Kinabalu for 17 years from 1987 to 2004.
"It makes no sense to have a district officer from the Muslim community who never grew up within the atmosphere of Momogun customs and tradition.
"The case of such a district chief conducting the trial in native marriage conflicts and land disputes, and signing to proclaim decisions on such matters is not right," Majimbun said, in a statement.
He said while the practice has been going on for a long time, the new generation of Momoguns today have voiced their disagreement, even expressing their sense of being culturally usurped.
Majimbun said there was even a case of a district chief who could not speak his mother tongue, a situation which raises the question about his actual understanding of his community's customs and tradition".
He also said that because of the entrenched need to replace all politically-appointed native court leaders and ketuas kampong, "we now have a very serious case of native court malfunction due to the long delay in the appointment of new political supporters to replace those who were summarily terminated after the last election.
"We cannot afford to have this happening after every change of government, "he said.
He also said the native court must no longer continue to be a convenient avenue for rewarding political supporters. He said otherwise there would be the tendency to appoint non-qualified, non-trained, adat leaders appointed almost purely for their political support.
As for the establishment of BORIIS, Majimbun, lauded it as an excellent move for the study of Momogun affairs. However he feels a proper discussion about which body or bodies to collaborate with the chief Minister's Department in the appointment of native court officers needs to be held because there are also other Momogun NGOs who have long experience in the matter of adat and should be involved in the process to reformat the Native court.
At the signing of the Malaysia Agreement in 1963, the colonial administration left native Muslim affairs in the care of late Tun Mustapha and non-Muslim affairs under late Donald (later Tun Fuad) Stephens while Chinese affairs under the SCA led by late Datuk Khoo Siak Chew.
This was also reflected in their appointments to the Legislative Council as the colonial administration recognised that both the non-Muslim natives and the Muslim natives had their respective roles to lay.