The High Court in Sabah and Sarawak
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CategoryOpening of the Legal Year
Speech ByThe Rt. Hon. Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak
SpeechMy friends and colleagues, a very good morning and Happy New Year. Welcome to Sandakan. The Right Honourable Chief Justice is unable to be with us this morning due to work commitments. He conveys his apology and best wishes.

A year has passed since we gathered in Sibu Sarawak. Hopefully we all have grown a year wiser but not in mind, spirit and charm! On those let us be young.

We warmly welcome the presence of our distinguished guests this morning with special mention goes to YB Datuk V.K.Liew the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister Department and de facto Deputy Minister of Law and the Member of Parliament for Sandakan.

And to:
- Mr. Salim Soib @ Hamid, Senior Federal Counsel, Sabah
- Mr. Yaacub Chik, Senior Federal Counsel, Sarawak, on behalf of the Federal Attorney General;
YBhg Datuk Roderic Fernandez, Sabah State Attorney General;
Mr. Francis Johen Anak Adam, Deputy Sarawak State Attorney General;
YBhg Datuk John Sikayun, President, Sabah Law Association; and
Mr. Khairil Azmi B. Haji Mohamad Hasbie, President, Advocates’ Association of Sarawak;

I say thank you for the kind and gracious words. Thank you for the reminders on our solemn duties to the society and the shortcomings in our performance last year. On behalf of my brothers and sisters Judges, judicial officers and staff I assure you all that these shortcomings will be duly addressed if they have not already been done so as we fully subscribe to the principle of People First, Performance Now.

And as a starter for the year, with immediate effect we have banned or consider them taboos at all Court premises in Sabah and Sarawak the statements below. They can no longer be the excuses or reasons for not doing work.
  • Computer rosak balik bulan depan
  • Cuti balik mungkin tahun depan
  • Pergi minum, tunggulah
  • Hadir Kursus, tiada ganti
  • File sedang di cari balik minggu depan
  • Offline hari ini balik esok
  • Sakit/Medical Certificate/Emergency leave, balik esok

You may ask: why Medical Certificate is included? The answer is this: Judges, Officers and staff are now multi-tasked. If the counter clerk falls sick the Interpreters, the File Searchers, the Odeli or even Judges and Officers can do the counter work.

This morning I do not propose to trumpet our success or make excuses for our shortcomings last year. We did what we had to do without exemption. So let the records show whether we had bitten more than we could chew and whether we stood tall and did it our way.

For our performance last year we have some regrets but then again too few to mention. At the same time, we know that the end in the disposal of backlog of cases is not yet near. And the final curtain for most of us is yet to fall. So my brothers and sisters Judges, judicial officers and all staff of the Courts of Sabah and Sarawak and members of the Bar, let us do our work together with each careful step and not in a shy way what we truly feel and in accordance with the law. In doing so, we may have to travel each and every highway and along the byway but never as one who kneels to avoid the blows. And so for the next 12 months we have planned to focus on a charted course for the Courts of Sabah and Sarawak, some of which are as follows:

1. There will be movement of Judges and Officers in order to maximize their potentials and due to the decrease in pending cases. There will be one less High Court Judge in Kota Kinabalu while changes will take place for Miri, Bintulu and Kuching;

2. We will adopt the Three in One concept in that for smaller stations they will be managed by Session Court judges on circuit instead of resident Magistrates. The judge is to hear Magistrate court cases, Senior Assistant Registrars cases as well as his own cases. At the same time Registrars of the Subordinate Courts will be posted to those stations to handle the daily remand cases and other administrative matters;

3. Magistrates and Senior Assistant Registrars will also be assigned as Research Officers for High Court Judges and Session Court Judges. Hopefully this move will assist in the speedy completion of judgments with improved quality;

4. Shorter timeline in disposal of cases will be introduced. For criminal cases - those on remand and Government servants’ cases, it is three (3) months from the date of being charged. For other criminal cases, it is six (6) months for the date of being charged. For civil cases, the disposal timeline will be twelve (12) months from the date of registration;

5. There will be extensive reliance on the Virtual files in the Case Management System (CMS) and e-filing in order to avoid adjournments;

6. The concept of filing anywhere, anytime for any Registry in Sabah and Sarawak will be introduced. So if someone in Kota Kinabalu intends to file an action in Sandakan he does not have to fly to Sandakan or gets a firm to file on his behalf. All he has to do is to file his documents at the Kota Kinabalu Registry and the filing is completed as if he did it in Sandakan. And to enable filing at anytime the ‘Laundry basket’ feature will be introduced in the CMS hopefully by the middle of this year;

7. We acknowledge the high pending cases in courts related to Birth Certificate Extracts in Sabah. [11,884 applications pending as at 31.12.2010]. There will be a team of flying squad Magistrates to handle them;

8. For the convenience of witnesses and in tandem with this year theme of 'Justice for One and All' Mobile Court Room concept will be introduced using modified bus moving from one place to another where needed. So if there is a trial say in Kiulu, Sabah where there is no circuit court the Mobile Court Room will be despatched there. Presently such case is heard in Tuaran and witnesses have to travel at least one hour with no proper transport system in place. Or a case which happened in Sematan Sarawak, witnesses need not come to Kuching or Lundu for the hearing. The Mobile Court Room will go there. This concept is different from the Mobile Court which is more focused on the delivery of court services to the remote areas of the two States;

9. We are aware of the increasing number of drugs and other related cases being committed by young persons. For instance in the whole of Sabah last year there were 6,392 persons with ages ranging between 16 years and 50 years old charged under sections 12 and 15 of Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. In order to assist our society the officers of the Courts of Sabah and Sarawak will extend their Community Social Responsibility (CSR) to more schools and villages; and

10. Continuing Judicial Training will be intensified in several areas of the law, for instance, in Shipping Law, Company Law, Intellectual Property Law, and Mediation and Settlement Conference techniques.

It is not forgotten that Judges and Officers in every station are expected to have regular meetings or discussion with the Bar to resolve problems arising and to further enhance the delivery system. I suggest at least once every two months.

And when we have our fill and assemble again next year, hopefully we can say it again that we did it all in our way!

Finally, thank you Sandakan for showing the way this year with the new approach to the Opening of Legal Year!

I now declare the Legal Year 2011 open!!

Chief Judge Of Sabah And Sarawak

21 January 2011