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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Upko wants legal aid services extended to Sabah native court



February 27, 2011

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 27 — United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) vice-president Senator Datuk Maijol Mahap wants the Federal Government to extend the services of the National Legal Aid Foundation to Native Court cases in Sabah.

In making the call, he said this was because the legal aid to be provided by the foundation would only cover criminal, civil and Syariah court cases.

“The natives in Sabah should get the benefit of this legal aid. Let the services be ‘felt’ by all strata of society in Malaysia, as long as they are within the RM25,000 threshold.

“Many parties in the Native Court refuse to appeal to the Native Court of Appeal because they cannot afford the legal fees ... this is where the foundation can be of help to them,” he told Bernama here today.

Maijol was asked to comment on the prime minister’s recent launch of the foundation which provides legal aid to those with an annual income of less than RM25,000.

The foundation has 12 members on its board of directors, with Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail as chairman, and Malaysian Bar Council president K. Ragunath as his deputy.

Maijol said, although lawyers were not allowed to represent the parties at Native Court and District Native Court levels, lawyers were allowed to appear on behalf of native litigants in the Native Court of Appeal.

“I believe the foundation can assist to provide legal assistance at this level by engaging lawyers who were already called to the Native Court Bar in Sabah,” he said.

He said 19 lawyers in Sabah had been admitted into the Native Court Bar currently, adding they were conversant with the native customary law and native law in the state.

Describing the Federal Government’s move to set up the foundation as appropriate and timely, Maijol said this was another step taken by the government to provide adequate justice to the people, in accordance with the rule of law.

“This goes to show the caring attitude of our prime minister and the Barisan Nasional government towards the people,” he said.

However, he said in order for it to be fully implemented and felt by the people, legal firms in the country should support this system.

“I believe many legal firms and lawyers are already giving free legal counselling and advice to people all this while ... the foundation will enhance their services in a more structured way,” he added. — Bernama

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