Sarawak A-G to appeal against Pujut rep reinstatement

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 21 Jun 2017

KUCHING: The Sarawak Attorney-General will file an appeal on behalf of the state assembly against the High Court judgment to reinstate Dr Ting Tiong Choon as Pujut assemblyman.

Law, State-Federal Relationship and Project Monitoring assistant minister Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali said the state assembly would seek clarity and the precise boundaries of constitutional authority between the two branches of Government, namely the legislature and judiciary.

She said the High Court had decided that the Sarawak assembly acted outside its constitutional limits when passing the motion to disqualify Dr Ting despite the provisions of Article 19(1) of the State Constitution, which declared the decision of the state assembly as final.

A more authoritative judicial determination from a higher court of this important matter is essential on when or whether judicial intervention on the state assembly’s proceedings is permissible under the doctrine of separation of powers between the various arms of Government.

A proper interpretation of the provisions of Article 17(1)(g) of the State Constitution on disqualification from election to the state assembly when a person acquired foreign citizenship is required.

The High Court has not, in its judgment, come out with a definitive interpretation of this article. Therefore, an appeal would allow the apex court to provide interpretation and guidance to all relevant public bodies, including the Election Commission and aspiring election candidates, as to whether a person still qualifies to seek election having once acquired citizenship of another nation regardless of subsequent renouncement, Sharifah Hasidah said in a statement yesterday.

She added that the decision by the appellate court on the issue would not only determine whether the state assemblyman of Pujut should vacate his seat under Article 18(2)(a) of the State Constitution but more importantly, the decision would ultimately avoid future controversies on the precise constitutional boundaries between legislature and judiciary.

Sarawak Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar filed an appeal against the High Court ruling on Monday through lawyer Shankar Ram Asnani.

Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state assembly would file an appeal after discussing the matter with the state Attorney-General.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said he would file a notice of appeal but leave the matter to the state Attorney-General.

Judge Datuk Douglas Christo Primus Sikayun ruled in favour of Dr Ting on Saturday.

In his ruling, it was stated that the state assembly was not a competent forum to decide on the membership of Dr Ting based on Article 118 of the Federal Constitution and that the Speaker had wrongly applied Article 17(1)(g) of the Sarawak Constitution.

The judge said Mohamad Asfia had taken the role of prosecutor and had not accurately stated the laws, in particular Article 23(1) and 24(1) of the Federal Constitution, and the rule of natural justice had not been adhered to.

Wong tabled a ministerial motion to disqualify Dr Ting for having acquired Australian citizenship, and Dr Ting filed an originating summons in the High Court here to challenge the state assembly’s decision.

The Election Commission has cancelled the Pujut by-election announced for July 4.

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