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Bigamy Costs Malaysian a Buffalo and a Pig

July 12, 2006

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ An indigenous man in Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo Island was fined a buffalo and a pig for breaking a tribal custom by secretly marrying a second wife, a tribal court official said Wednesday.

The 39-year-old man was asked to compensate his first wife and children with a buffalo and a pig even though he agreed to dissolve the second marriage and return to his first wife and family, Kota Kinabalu Native Court chief William Majimbun told The Associated Press.

The court handles cases only relating to laws of the native indigenous people in Sabah.

Majimbun said the man, whose identity has been withheld, performed the second marriage secretly in a remote village in 2003.

``Indigenous custom doesn’t normally punish men who marry a second time, but in this case, he did not get the permission of the first wife,″ Majimbun said. ``The case was handled based on customary laws.″

The Star newspaper reported that Native Courts in Sabah’s 21 districts function alongside the civil and Islamic Sharia courts, and are presided over by districts chiefs assisted by tribe leaders.

The court allows the state’s indigenous Kadazan natives and other smaller tribes to seek redress under ancient tribal customs, which stress more on reconciling fighting parties than meting out punishment, Majimbun said.

``We try to aim for restoring ties, for example if native neighbors are having a dispute we try to settle it, then order the slaughter of one chicken,″ which may encourage a feasting session, he said.

Grievances regarding issues such as land succession, rights, property inheritance and domestic disputes within the communities were normally be settled in the Native Court.

Less than 5 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people consists of Kadazans and other indigenous people, although they make up the majority in the states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo.

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