Court of Appeal allows stay in Sarawak’s suit to recover sales tax from Petronas

Petronas’ lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar speaking to reporters at the Kuching Courthouse today.

KUCHING: The Court of Appeal has granted a stay of proceedings until March 13 in the Sarawak government’s lawsuit to recover unpaid state sales tax from Petronas.

The unanimous decision was delivered by Court of Appeal Judge Mary Lim who led a three-man bench today.

On Feb 11, Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin fixed March 13 to hear Sarawak’s bid to recover the unpaid state sales tax from Petronas.

However, the national oil corporation had applied to the Court of Appeal for a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of its appeal against Chin’s decision not to recuse himself from hearing the case.

Petronas claimed that Chin would decide the case in favour of the prime minister as his tenure as a judicial commissioner was temporary and subject to confirmation by the prime minister, who is also the person with ultimate control over Petronas.

Petronas’ lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, when met at the Kuching Courthouse today, said the Court of Appeal had agreed with them and stayed all proceedings in the suit.

“Normally, for a stay of proceedings, the applicant has to show special circumstances. The state government had said we had no special circumstances but we said we did.

“We said obviously this goes to the art of administration of justice, (as there were) issues of apparent bias and the Court of Appeal agreed with us, warranting a stay of proceedings at the High Court,” he said.

He also said the hearing of the appeal to recuse Chin had been scheduled for March 6 in Putrajaya.

On Jan 1 last year, Sarawak imposed a 5% sales tax on Petronas’ petroleum products under the state’s Sales Tax Ordinance 1998.

However, Petronas failed to pay the tax amounting to RM1.3 billion, resulting in the state government’s legal action against it.