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Court: Sarawak AG can act for state legislature over Pujut rep disqualification

 | October 4, 2017

Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon’s lawyer says legal team will obtain instruction from Ting whether to appeal today's decision in the Federal Court.

Dr-Ting-Tiong-Choon-agPETALING JAYA: The Sarawak attorney-general (AG) has the authority to file an appeal on behalf of the state assembly, which is a party challenging the qualification of an assemblyman, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

“Based on the facts and circumstances of the case, he is competent to lodge an appeal on behalf of the state legislature,” said Justice Rohana Yusof who chaired a three-man bench to dismiss a preliminary objection raised by Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon.

Later, during a case management, the registry fixed the appeal to be heard in Kuching on Oct 26.

Ting’s lawyer Tan Kee Heng had earlier submitted that the AG could not file the appeal at the instruction of the secretary of the state legislature.

“It is for the 82 assemblymen to decide whether the house should file an appeal to the Court of Appeal,” he said.

He said the AG, a member of the executive, could not represent the legislative arm of the government.

Tan said the High Court in its judgment ruled that the elected representative was misled to disqualify Ting, as the Speaker Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar, had misinterpreted the laws.

However, state deputy AG Saferi Ali submitted that Ting had no objection when they represented the legislature during trial in the High Court.

“In the circumstances, the AG has the right to file the appeal after their suit was dismissed,” he said.

On June 17, justice Douglas Christo Primus Sikayun ruled against the legislature’s decision to disqualify Ting as assemblyman.

“There is no vacancy for the Pujut seat,” said the judge who also awarded RM100,000 to Ting.

That decision also rendered a by-election unnecessary.

The judge had ruled that “the Dewan (legislature) has no express powers to deal with an election result.

“The Dewan is not a competent body to decide constitutional issues, and the speaker did not afford Ting adequate time to defend himself, and also had not given the opportunity to Dr Ting. (And) 8,899 Pujut voters’ interests should also be taken into consideration,” he had said.

The judge had said the speaker had taken on the role of prosecutor and that he had not accurately stated the laws, in particular Article 23(1) and 24(1) of the Federal Constitution.

On May 12, Ting was dismissed as assemblyman under Article 17(1)(g) of the state constitution for voluntarily acquiring citizenship outside Malaysia.

The motion, tabled by Sarawak second finance minister Wong Soon Koh, was put to a vote and received the support of 70 Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers.

All 10 opposition members voted against it.

Wong said Ting acquired Australian citizenship on Jan 20, 2010, and only renounced it on April 4, 2016, a month before the Sarawak election on May 8.

Mohd Asfia (the speaker) told reporters that he was happy and satisfied with today’s ruling.

“I hope this matter will be decided before the next assembly sitting scheduled from Nov 8 to 17,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chong Siew Chiang, who appeared with Tan, said the legal team would obtain instruction whether to file a leave to appeal application in the Federal Court.

“We feel that the secretary of the Dewan cannot direct the AG to lodge an appeal against the High Court ruling.

“The members must vote whether to appeal the High Court ruling since the judgment states that the speaker had misled the assemblymen on the law,” he added.

Others appealing the High Court decision are the speaker, Wong and the Election Commission.


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