KUCHING: The High Court of Sabah and Sarawak has no jurisdiction to determine a suit filed by 12 Sarawakians to remove two territories from Malaysia, a government lawyer said.
Senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan said the enlarged union in 1963 was the result of an international treaty.
In the suit, the plaintiffs, among others, want a declaration that the Malaysia Agreement 1963 was void from the beginning.
Shamsul said that the plaintiffs were under a “grave misunderstanding” that they could push for Sabah and Sarawak to exit Malaysia through a court process.
“The subject matter of the plaintiffs’ claim is beyond the jurisdiction of the court and inherently unsuited for judicial determination,” Shamsul said in his submission to strike out the suit.
Shamsul, who is assisted by Ahmad Hanir Hambaly, Liew Horng Bin and Low Wen Zhen, said policy decisions were the business of the legislature and the executive.
He said the crux of the plaintiffs’ claim was to seek independence for Sabah and Sarawak and their immediate exit from Malaysia, a relief that the court had no power to grant.
In response, lawyer Voon Lee Shan said the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak “belonged to the people of the land”.
“The power of the legislature, the executive and the court comes from the people of the land who are supreme,” he said, adding that the judiciary here has the jurisdiction to adjudicate the plaintiffs’ claim.
Voon said the plaintiffs filed the suit on the grounds that Malaysia was illegally formed.
He added that the plaintiffs’ claim was no different from any other civil suit premised on tortious or contractual breaches or fraud.
“This is not a dispute between international bodies or between countries,” he added.
Led by Dorus Katan Juman, the plaintiffs filed a writ and statement of claim last year, naming Putrajaya, the British and Sarawak governments as defendants.
They are seeking damages for mental and emotional stress, and loss and damage from the unlawful or illegal acts of the three defendants jointly or individually.
Shamsul said the British government was not represented as the plaintiffs did not serve the legal papers in accordance with the law.
J C Fong, who represented the Sarawak government, has taken a similar stand with Putrajaya.
Judicial commissioner Alexander Siew will deliver his ruling on March 31.