Union seeks to recuse Industrial Court chairman over alleged refusal to use BM

The National Union of Bank Employees wants the case to be transferred to another division of the Industrial Court. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: The National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) has filed an affidavit to remove an Industrial Court chairman on grounds she would be biased following a complaint that she refused to conduct the case in Bahasa Malaysia.

According to the affidavit sighted by FMT, NUBE also wants the case to be transferred to another division of the court on grounds that the chairperson, Sumathi Murugiah, is biased against NUBE industrial relations officer Shariffudin Hassan.

Shariffudin, who is challenging a bank over the dismissal of an employee, claims that Sumathi refused to conduct the case in Bahasa Malaysia as the statement by the first witness was in English.

He alleged that Sumathi ordered him to present his case in English and gave him 25 minutes to translate his questions.

He claimed Sumathi then ordered her assistant, Evelyn Chan, to cross-examine the witness in English after she noticed that he was struggling.

Shariffudin subsequently lodged a complaint to NUBE, which was later brought up to the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), over Sumathi’s refusal to allow him to cross-examine the witness in Bahasa Malaysia.

NLAC later agreed that a court interpreter should be provided.

Shariffudin also claimed that when the case was heard again before Sumathi a few months later, she prevented Chan from helping him out on grounds that she did not have a letter of appointment from the union.

Shariffudin alleged that Sumathi did not give him adequate time to obtain an appointment letter.

“I believe Sumathi brought up this matter (appointment letter) because she was unhappy that I had raised the case with NLAC as I felt my client would not get a fair trial.

“I then requested for her to recuse herself and repeated my claim that she would be biased.”

Shariffudin claimed Sumathi said she would record his protest, before allegedly adding: “Why are you still here? Please leave the bench. The case will go on with or without the union reps.”

He said he believed Sumathi continued to hear the case on an ex-parte basis after asking him to leave.