Need for an enlightened judiciary — Gurdial Singh Nijar

Source: The Sun Daily

BY GURDIAL SINGH NIJAR
(Deputy President, HAKAM)

OF late we have heard a ratcheting up of proposals to fortify our body politic – by amending the Federal Constitution. The outgoing chief justice proposes that we amend the constitution to entrench the right to a clean and healthy environment. Several NGOs also clamour for the inclusion of the tenets of the Rukun Negara as a preamble to our constitution.

All very laudable. And certainly well-meant, of course. These beneficent add-ons cannot but help strengthen the protection of the environment, the rule of law, rights, preserve the integrity of institutions and keep unbridled power in check.

The objective is to ensure that new laws are shaped – and existing laws reshaped – to put into effect the thrust of these changes; and by which the country’s governance will be adjudged. And that the courts, as the final arbiter when there is a contestation between the citizenry and the executive, will implement these accordingly.

This is where the rub lies. There are already sufficient provisions in our laws – written laws passed by Parliament, the common law (pronounced by court decisions) and the custom or usage of our natives (the orang asal of Sarawak and Sabah; and the orang asli of Peninsular Malaysia) – to achieve the same objectives. Read more

A blow to indigenous rights — Gurdial Singh Nijar

Source: The Sun Daily

BY GURDIAL SINGH NIJAR
(Deputy President, HAKAM)

A RECENT majority Federal Court decision dealt a fatal blow to the customary rights of indigenous peoples to freely access the forest for food, medicines and such like.

Such a right has existed since time immemorial as universally recognised. Indeed the immense contribution of traditional knowledge associated with the forest resources to modern medicine has been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation.

In the Bakun Dam case the Appeals Court pronounced that the forest provided the sustenance of life for indigenous peoples.

Read more