Orang Asli Customary Law

8 August 2016

Orang Asli is a Malay term for natives. Traditionally, natives make decisions and settle disputes by achieving consensus through processes like negotiation and consultation. These customary practices had become adat (customs) that governed indigenous communities in Sabah and Sarawak for generations, existed only in oral form. In Sabah, efforts were made to codify adat but all these attempts fell short of having these customs codified and made legally binding. Instead, they remained merely as guides to native chiefs and court officials.

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Among all, only the efforts of George Cathcart Woolley (Commissioner of Lands, North Borneo Company) have successfully printed the compiled customs as codes. These codes were published by government printing office in 1953 and reprinted in 1962 as Native Affairs Bulletins No. 1 to 7. The 7 Natives Affairs Bulletins published by the North Borneo Company, 1936 –1939 1. The Timoguns: A Murut Tribe of the Interior, North Borneo Native Affairs Bulletin No. 1, Sandakan: Government Printing Office, 1936 (Reprinted by the North Borneo Government Printing Office, 1962.32 p). 2. Tuaran Adat: Some Customs of the Dusun, North Borneo, Native Affairs Bulletin No. 2, Sandakan: Government Printing Office, 1937. (Reprinted by the North Borneo Government Printing Office, 1953). 3. Murut Adat: Customs Regulating Inheritance amongst the Nabai Tribe of Keningau and the Timogun Tribe of Tenom, Native Affairs Bulletin No. 3, Sandakan: Government Printing Office, 1939, 27 p. 4. Dusun Adat: Customs Regulating Inheritance amongst the Dusun Tribes in the Coastal Plains of Putatan and Papar, Native Affairs Bulletin No.

Below are distinct types of compensation for injuries stated in this Rule: Types of compensation Interpretation 1. Babas any customary conciliatory gift to an aggrieved party designed to preserve the bonds of friendship. 2. Denda Malu a customary compensation in respect of any breach of native customary law which exposes the aggrieved party to the possibility of disgrace before the relatives or community to whom or which such aggrieved party belongs. 3. Kepanasan kampung a customary fine in respect of an offence against the general virtues and dignity of a village. 4. Sogit

Customary haematic penalty. All these compensation for injuries comes in the form of fine, adat fine and restorative justice. Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Usually, the offenders have to compensate the aggrieved party with livestock or other things of equivalent value in accordance with adat fine. Mr Anthony John Noel Richards must be mentioned in the codification of Dayak customary laws in Sarawak.

After graduating from college, he entered the Sarawak civil service as a Brooke cadet officer in September 1938. His first posting was to the Secretariat where he worked under Mr Andrew MacPherson, then Secretary for Native Affairs. Here, he rapidly gained fluency in both Iban and Malay. In the year 1961, he published: Dayak Adat Law in the Second Division (in Iban and English, 1963, Kuching: Government Printer), and Dayak Adat Law in the First Division-Bidayuh (in English, 1964, Kuching: Government Printer). In Sarawak, the Sea-Dayaks (Iban) are the largest indigenous group.

They are animists who believe in various deities. Legends say that these deities gave the Sea-Dayaks’ ancestors natural law which has become the customary law. These customary laws became the basis on settling disputes and cases. The very first codification of Sea-Dayak law has started with Mr A. B. Ward in the year 1907. He was the Resident of the Second Division at Simanggang. His code was successfully published in Sarawak Museum Journal. A conference took place in the Third Division, year 1932 to record these customary laws.

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