Kota Kinabalu June 19, 2012: The Sabah Law Association (SLA) urged the authorities to reconsider the decision to relocate the Kota Kinabalu Court House to Bukit Punai, near the St Francis Convent Secondary School and Gaya Teachers' Training Institute, here.
Instead, it preferred that the existing site in the centre of the city be retained, said the association in a statement here Monday.
The SLA had been informed by a reliable source that the authorities were going ahead to build a new court complex in Kota Kinabalu to be sited at Bukit Punai.
"The information comes as a surprise to SLA and to the Sabah legal fraternity.
"This is because for many months now, SLA was made to understand that the Judiciary's plan was to demolish the existing court building in the city, except for the Federal Court building (which has to be preserved under the law as a heritage as it was one of the first court houses to be built in the 60s) and build a new court complex on the same site in terms of its accessibility, logistic and historical consideration.
"In the meantime, the courts would be moving temporarily to the Wisma Khidmat building, until the new court complex is built.
"Based on this plan, SLA understands that the owner of Wisma Khidmat has incurred much renovation costs to make the building suitable to house the temporary courts," stated SLA.
In this respect, SLA expressed disappointment that the authorities did not consult the lawyers and other stakeholders such as the local professionals: the architects, engineers and environmentalists.
"They should have been consulted to give their views before the authorities decide to choose the site and also the design of new court complex to be built," it said.
SLA regretted the lack of transparency in the decision making process and that as the people in Sabah are the users of the proposed court complex, surely it is only proper and prudent that the people who will be most affected should have been consulted.
According to SLA, the chosen site is on a hill, away from the city centre and the association understands that the hill Bukit Punai is to be a green lung.
"Its location raises serious issues on accessibility and amenities.
Travelling to the area would greatly inconvenience the public, the ordinary people, litigants and lawyers alike who will be attending courts during working hours.
"The site is not user-friendly compared to the location of the present court building. Many kampung folk also attend court for legal and administrative purposes," he said.
"Most of them come to courts with much effort and incur costs in travelling to the present courts. Travelling to the proposed new courts complex to be sited at a comparatively less accessible area will not only cause greater inconvenience to them but also increase the traveling costs and expenses.
"Also as the proposed new site is close to St Francis Convent Secondary School, there would be difficulty in parking and there would be traffic congestion when travelling to the proposed new court house during the beginning and close of school hours," said the association.
SLA was also made to understand that only five acres would be alienated for the purpose of building the new court house while the remaining area on Bukit Punai would be given to a third party.
"An area of five acres is not sufficient to build a court house to house all the court rooms and the necessary support facilities and amenities.
"Also this effectively means that the proposed court house would be sharing the site with another third party, thereby restricting access to the new court house and creating parking problems," it said, adding that it would also create a lot of problems and inconvenience to those people residing in the vicinity of the proposed court house.
SLA believed that since access to the proposed court house site would be restricted, those going to the court would have to park their vehicles haphazardly in the residential area thereby preventing the residents from travelling freely to and from their houses.