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Council supports proposal to make JPs more responsible

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Justices of the Peace Council (Majaps) welcomed the proposal by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk VK Liew to make JPs more responsible when attesting to documents. Its president, Datuk Clarence Bongkos Malakun, said that as explained by Liew, the ministry intends to amend the Statutory Declaration Act 1960 for the benefit of the wider public and to prevent fraudulent transfer of lands such as in the Adorna Case as decided by the Kuala Lumpur Supreme Court. "Incidentally there are JPs in Sabah who were appointed by the Head of State but are not members of Majaps. "As such, there is nothing Majaps can do with regards to the individual conduct of non-members or to discipline them. As far as Majaps members are concerned, they are being told not to charge any fees to members of the public who come to seek their services in attesting to and or certifying true copies of documents for official use.

"Majaps members who are legally qualified are also ever ready to cooperate with the judiciary to carry out our responsibilities as Second Class Magistrates, if we are asked to do so by the courts," he said recently. Malakun said that very often the public have the wrong impression that Commissioners of Oaths are "superior" to JPs when in fact it is the opposite. This is because JPs are appointed for life whereas COs are appointed on a two-year renewable basis, he explained. "In Sabah, JPs are actually appointed under the JP Ordinance 1961 to be read with the Subordinate Courts Act of 1948 (amended 1990)," he said, adding that under the Act, every JP in Sabah is authorised to administer oaths and affirmations, to make and receive Statutory Declarations, to attest to signatures under any written law or when otherwise required to do so as though such JPs were a Second Class Magistrate.

Further, under Section 11 of the Criminal Procedure Code (FMS. Cap 6), upon request, the public must render necessary assistance to JPs in discharging their duties. "The appointment of JPs is therefore judicial in nature and is not an award like a Datukship title. For JPs in Sabah, those appointed have to take an oath of allegiance before a Senior High Court judge. "In Peninsular Malaysia, being a JP is an award and they do not have the power of a Second Class Magistrate as they are not required to take the oath before any High Court judge," he said. COs on the other hand are not supposed to certify documents such as birth and educational certificates, etc as they are not empowered to do so under the Evidence Act.

The JPs, however, are empowered to certify documents, although some government departments, especially Federal agencies are not always fully aware of this matter. Maybe because JPs in West Malaysia do not have such powers as the JPs in Sabah, he said. In Sarawak, the State has no legal provision to appoint JPs. Majaps, therefore, urged all members to conduct themselves properly as appointed JPs and to uphold the sovereignty of the law in their daily lives. "As such they should be extra careful not to blindly sign or certify documents such as fraudulent Power of Attorneys that comes before them as has been mentioned by Datuk VK Liew in the newspapers lately," he said.

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