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KUCHING: The Sarawak government views the relocation of the Registry for the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu as “unconstitutional”.

The Chief Minister’s Office, in a press statement today, confirmed that there was no consultation by the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad with the Chief Minister of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on the matter, as mandatorily required under Article 121 (4) of the Federal Constitution.

“As such, the Sarawak government strongly objects to this non-compliance with the Rule of Law and views it as an unconstitutional move,” the Chief Minister’s Office stated.

Although the Sarawak government accepts that the final decision in this matter rests with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on advice of the Prime Minister, it is imperative that the fundamental constitutional process of consultation be adhered to.

“This unconstitutional act, if not checked, will in future, have wider repercussions on the rights of Sarawak under the Constitution.”

The relocation, effective May 1 this year, was revealed in an official government letter issued by the Federal Court of Malaysia. Copies of the letter, dated April 19 were also sent to 16 individuals, was signed by Chief Registrar of the Federal Court Datuk Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar.

This sudden decision had shocked many, considering that the Registry of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak has been located in Kuching since the formation of Malaysia.

In response, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Parliamentary Affairs) Datuk Liew Vui Keong said there is nothing in law or in the Constitution which says that the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak Registry shall remain in Kuching forever.

“In fact it’s to the contrary as provided in Article 121 (4) of the Federal Constitution. Impliedly, Sabah too has its right to house the Registry,” Liew said in a press statement yesterday.

Liew disclosed that the decision to move the Registry from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu was made by the top four judges sometime in March, this year.

Liew said when the new Kota Kinabalu Court Complex was ready for occupation late last year, the former Chief Judge Tan Sri Richard Malanjum thought the time has come for Sabah to house the Registry.

“This idea was put to the top management who also agreed. However the Advocates Association of Sarawak flatly rejected the idea.”

Liew said last March, Malanjum wrote to Dr Mahathir for permission to move the Registry to Kota Kinabalu premised on several reasons which the Prime Minister consented.

“There is no financial implication to such move. Thereafter the Yang di-Pertuan Agong granted his royal assent to move the Registry to Kota Kinabalu in early April.

“It is only after that the Chief Registrar issued the circular of relocation on April 19, 2019,” Liew disclosed.

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