KUCHING: A heated debate broke out on the final day of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly sitting over a motion relating to the disqualification of DAP’s Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon.
The motion set to seek approval for the House to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision that its disqualification of Dr Ting for previously acquiring Australian citizenship is unlawful.
Angry words were exchanged by both sides when Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei from DAP repeatedly stood up to speak without permission from Deputy Speaker Datuk Gerawat Gala.
Wong could be heard shouting and was nearly ejected from the chamber after Gerawat ruled that he was not qualified to speak in the debate on the motion because he acted as Dr Ting’s counsel in the latter's court case challenging his disqualification last year.
Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, who tabled the motion, lost his cool and told Wong several times to sit down.
The motion was eventually approved by 68 votes to seven.
Earlier, Abdul Karim said the motion was not a personal vendetta or political persecution against Dr Ting but was about protecting the sanctity of the House.
He said the Court of Appeal's majority decision last Friday meant that there was nothing the state assembly could do even though it was aware that a disqualified person was sitting in the House.
“Two of the judges expressly held that the act of acquiring foreign citizenship has the effect of disqualifying that person to be elected as a member of this House and that such a disqualification is a continuing one.
“The only thing is that the judges differed in their opinion as to whether this House is empowered to do anything about it. By a majority, the court ruled that this House did not have the power to act as it did,” he said.
Arguing against the motion, DAP's Bukit Assek assemblyman Irene Chang said the intended appeal would not serve public interest and that prolonged court proceedings would be a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.
She said the state assembly should seek to amend the state constitution if it wanted clarity on the issue of disqualification.
Pelawan assemblyman David Wong, also from DAP, added that the House should be deliberating on matters of importance to Sarawakians instead of pursuing a “personal agenda”.
“Instead, we are like small kids quarrelling over a piece of candy,” he said.
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