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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Chief Justice: Native affairs should be headed by non-Muslims

KOTA KINABALU - The post of native court judge or native chief should be given to those trained for the job, said Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Richard Malanjum (pic).

He also thinks politicians should not be involved in appointing native chiefs and placed high hopes on the recently launched Borneo Institute for Indigenous Studies (BORIIS) in providing training for those hoping to become native court judges someday.

 Responding to a question, he also said it would be better for non-Muslims to be heading native affairs in Sabah because those affected are particularly non-Muslims.

“I have already said it before, that it should be good that it be headed by a non-Muslim,” he said. Most of the indigenous people of Sabah are non-Muslims and rely on their customs as a way of life while Muslims already have the Syariah courts.

The three main components in the Malaysia Agreement on the Sabah side represented the Non-Muslim natives (late Donald, later Fuad Stephens), Muslim natives (late Tun Mustapha) and Chinese represented by late Khoo Siak Choo.

Hence, even the colonial administration recognised that both the non-Muslim natives and the Muslim natives had their respective roles to play.

 BORIIS, established by Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in January aims to assist the research and development of the cultures and indigenous language of the “orang asal” , which is in line with Malanjum’s effort in uplifting the status of  indigenous people.

He hopes BORIIS will be a centre of formal education on the subject, noting that currently, the training is very ad hoc and he thinks that doesn’t go well for the institution.

 “Native Chief should not be a post for the unemployable, it should be given to those who have been trained, I hope this can be considered,” he said.

 He said there is currently no guideline on who can be native chief judge or district chief, they can be appointed as long as they have political connection, I don’t think this is reasonable.

“A native court judge should be well trained and versed in the laws of the natives, it cannot be someone who just knows how to shout during elections,” he said.

He also hopes the Law and Native Affairs Ministry will look into proper and systematic method in such appointments.

He also thinks that having BORIIS is very timely saying “We can’t wait for too long to do a serious study on indigenous people in Sabah and Sarawak. We must be the driving force to make this happen.”

He said in his premier lecture in conjunction with the official launching of BORIIS, at UMS, here, Monday.

“It is so nice to have UMS set up BORIIS, because I think the institute will bring hope to all this, I am certain it will bring hope,” he said.

In his lengthy talk, titled “Native Culture and Customary Rights: The Need to Keep Them Alive”, Malanjum suggested several areas which BORIIS can look into.

In addition, he thinks BORIIS should look into the studying the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), an international instrument adopted by the United Nations.

“The time has come to look at UNDRIP at one hand and to also check our legislation whether we have met the terms in UNDRIP and see whether there is a need to amend the laws so that it can be in tandem with the UNDRIP,” he said.

“We must try to comply if we are serious about it especially being one of the signatories, there is no point in signing with UNDRIP only to forget about it, hopefully BORIIS can do a study on this and come up with a report,” he added.

He suggested for BORIIS to look into what culture that should be preserved, citing underage marriage as a culture that Sabah can do without.

“We shouldn’t encourage early marriage among girls, culture is culture but we should keep the good and do away with the bad,” he said.

Other matters which he thinks BORIIS can look into is the ‘mysterious’ hike in the number of non-Malaysians in Sabah over the years.

“The ratio have changed hugely, in 1961 compared to 2010, it is a good reason to find out, and BORIIS can look into this,” said Malanjum.

He also noted that many indigenous nowadays hardly speak their mother tongue. In addition to the population growth, he also suggested that BORIIS to look into native customary land rights, poverty, education as well as property and land.

He said BORIIS can also help by creating awareness on indigenous rights and be a venue for consultation.

He also suggested that BORIIS collaborate with the Native Institute in Jalan Kibabaig, Penampang, and perhaps UMS can request from the State Government to be housed in the Native Institute building instead of taking space in UMS.

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