Following the controversial decision in Tuai Rumah Sandah Anak Tabau vs director of Forest and State Government of Sarawak, the lawyer for the Iban community asked why the five-member bench did not have at least one judge with experience in Borneo matters.
Baru Bian, who filed a revision to the decision in the case last Thursday, outlined 15 grounds to support the application under Rule 137 of the Federal Court rules.
“A ground of appeal worth noting is that the composition of the panel of judges hearing the case was not in keeping with Article 26 (4) Chapter 3 of the Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) 1962 read together with Article VIII of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
“This is namely there must be at least one judge with Borneo judicial experience to hear any appeal coming from the Borneo states. The fact that this requirement was overlooked caused an injustice to the natives from Sarawak, a Borneo state,” he added in a statement.
The application for revision was filed last Thursday, following the Federal Court's decision to allow the appeal by the Sarawak forest department director and also the Sarawak government, in having the land and declaring the practice of "pemakai menoa" and "pulau galau" was not enforceable in law.
Article 26 (4) of the IGC states “the domicile of the Supreme Court should be in Kuala Lumpur. Normally one of the judges of the Supreme Court should be a judge with Borneo judicial experience when the court is hearing a case arising from a Borneo state, and it should normally sit in a Borneo state to hear appeals in cases arising in that state.
It was reported that the five-member panel comprised Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif along with Federal Court judges Justice Abdull Hamid Embong, Justice Ahmad Ma'arop, Justice Abu Samah Nordin and Justice Zainun Ali.
Justice Raus, along with Justice Ahmad and Justice Abu Samah allowed the Sarawak government's appeal, while Justice Zainun dissented and Justice Abdull Hamid had then retired.
Baru who is also Ba'kelalan state representative further said that Justice Abu Samah's written judgment in support of Justice Raus and Justice Ahmad's decision was not on the law but on the finding of facts by the trial judge at the High Court.
“In fact, Justice Abu Samah was in agreement with the dissenting judge (Justice Zainun) on the law, on whether the custom of 'pemakai menoa' and 'pulau galau' comes within the definition of law in Article 160 (2) of the Federal Constitution, effectively making the judgment a split 2-2 decision,” he said.
Baru further said that as one of the judge had retired after hearing without writing his judgment meant only two out of five judges answered the legal questions laid before the court.
“This thereby makes it a minority decision granting the appeal of the Sarawak government. This is in itself is a grave injustice to the affected Iban community,” he said, adding that he hoped the case could be re-heard to avert injustice.
On the issue of "pemakai menoa" and "pulau galau", Baru welcomed the setting up of a committee and described it as welcomed news to the Sarawak native community.
However, he questioned and expressed concern over the presence of the Sarawak attorney general's office and Majlis Adat Istiadat, but there was no mention of experts like Nicholas Bawin, and academicians in the area being part of the committee.
“It should be noted that the state Attorney-General's office is the originator of this problem, having opposed the Dayaks and their lawyers in court and wrongly advising the government,” he said.
The Ba'kelalan representative also hoped that Sarawak deputy chief minister (DCM) Douglas Uggah's promise of doing an in-depth study related to the two practices would not take too long.
The native community has expressed their deep concern over this issue and are looking at the DCM and the new CM to resolve the matter.
“The problem needs to be resolved speedily as it not only affects the native community. There is an economic effect as well in the fact that foreign investors may have no confidence in the Sarawak government for lack of adherence in human rights requirement,” he warned.- Mkini