In Tuaran, one road sign is a tourist magnet: the one that points to Menggatal never fails to draw giggles and holiday snaps from West Malaysian and Sarawakian tourists. To them, ‘Menggatal’ sounds a bit naughty.
Not many tourists have any inkling that Menggatal lies at the centre of Sabah’s rice bowl, and may soon be its centre of Native Justice.
Kota Kinabalu Native Court Chief OKK William Majibon wants to establish an iconic Native Court and resource centre in Menggatal, which is a strategic location for the majority of the Sabahan natives, because it lies between Telipok and Inanam, where they reside.
Many of them, who still depend on public transportation, currently have to travel to the Native Court Building in Sembulan, Kota Kinabalu to attend court hearings. To reach there, they need to change buses twice.
Majibon has identified a suitable site in Menggatal town that falls under the jurisdiction of Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) and hopes that the mayor of Kota Kinabalu Iliyas Ibrahim will approve the site for the new building before he retires.
“The federal government is ready to provide funds for such construction not only in Kota Kinabalu, but also in other parts of
Sabah,” says Majibon.
Currently, only Papar and Kota Marudu have their own Native Court buildings.
If Majibon’s vision for Menggatal as the centre of Sabah Native justice is realised, the town’s reputation as a seat of
Native justice and customary laws will boost the flow of visitors to the tamu and retail market.
The Sabah Native Court is unique to Sabah. Sarawak has a different system of Native justice.
Some Sabahans think the Native Court should be on par with the Civil and Syariah Court systems matters such as probate and inheritance that may involve property, the distribution of assets and the adoption of minors.
Majibon calls on Sabahans “to make use of the Native Court system where possible instead of the more costly civil system to preserve and develop the long-term viability of their customary legal system.”
A new Native Court complex in Menggatal would lend greater dignity and prominence to Sabah’s very own indigenous legal heritage.
Quick facts on Menggatal:
Menggatal lies at the centre of an area between the Crocker Range and the South China Sea on the West Coast, south of the Kota Belud and Tuaran plain, and north of the Papar River plain, which comprise the rice bowl of Sabah.
The township of Menggatal lies along the main road now known as Tuaran Road. It was set up by Chinese retail merchants and farmers opening up nearby lands for vegetable farming and animal husbandry.
It has since grown into a suburban township, with small workshops that complement the larger ones nearby at the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park farther north. There are more than 100 shops in and around Menggatal today, compared to just some 20 when Sabah formed the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 with Sarawak, Singapore and the Federation of Malaya.