KUCHING: The disqualification of DAP’s Dr Ting Tiong Choon as Pujut assemblyman saw a fiery exchange between representatives from Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition at the Sarawak State Assembly this morning.
State minister Wong Soon Koh (Sarawak United People’s Party-Bawang Assam) traded barbs with opposition legislators during his speech in tabling a motion to dismiss Ting for allegedly holding dual Australian-Malaysian citizenship.
“Now I ask the member of Pujut: did you acquire Australian citizenship? No, you answer me! You answer that! You answer it! Yes or no?” Wong said.
Ting replied: “Would you ask any other members of this house whether they are citizens of other countries?”
“I don’t need to prove anything to you. You need to show your evidence that I have Australian citizenship, otherwise ask all the other 81 members whether they have foreign citizenship.”
“Can you (also) ask the honourable member of Batu Kawah whether he is an Australian citizen? I think not,” Ting added, referring to SUPP president Dr Sim Kui Hian, who spent 17 years in Australia.
In the motion, Wong claimed that Ting had acquired Australian citizenship on Jan 20, 2010, had declared allegiance to Australia at the time of acquiring the citizenship and had even registered as a voter with the Australian Electoral Commission.
Wong also claimed that Ting was declared a bankrupt twice in Australia.
“The member of Pujut is completely unqualified, unfit and (is an) untrustworthy individual to be nominated and elected to represent the people of Sarawak,” he said before the motion was seconded by Assistant Minister of Transportation Dr Jerip Susil (United People’s Party UPP-Mambong)
No copies of the documents were presented to the house or recorded in the Hansard.
Chong challenged Wong to make the allegations outside the assembly.
“Repeat what you said outside the Dewan. Don’t hide,” he said.
“Anyone who has a little legal knowledge would know a person cannot be made a bankrupt twice in a short span of three months. And the person who made such allegation calls himself a lawmaker.”
Wong retorted: “Don’t try to mislead this house anymore and don’t try to confuse anyone by avoiding (the issue of the) citizenship.”
He also said he was willing to repeat the allegations outside the Sarawak assembly.
“I will do it. I will do it. You (DAP) will get into further trouble for him,” Wong said.
“You cannot just source or scout for any candidate. I know you want a professional, a doctor or a lawyer and therefore you quickly chose one without doing any search on his background. Now you live to regret it,” he added.
“Next time, I advise you, don’t take it at the last minute. Three weeks before his election he renounced his (Australian) citizenship to contest,” Wong said.
“You know that the moment he acquired Australian citizenship, his Malaysian citizenship ought to be terminated immediately. You know that. You know that,” he said, referring to Malaysian law which disallows dual citizenship.
Seventy BN assemblymen voted yes to the motion, while 10 opposition lawmakers opposed.
Ting was disqualified under Article 17(1)(g) of the state constitution, which states that a person is disqualified from being elected as an elected member of the Sarawak assembly if he has voluntarily acquired citizenship or exercised rights of citizenship in or has made a declaration of allegiance to any country outside Malaysia.
In the 11th Sarawak state election in May last year, Ting won the Pujut seat in Miri after garnering 8,899 votes against 7,140 votes obtained by BN’s direct candidate Hii King Chiong. Jofri Jaraiee of PAS obtained 513 votes and independent Fong Pau Teck received 375 votes.