Court of Appeal grants stay in S'wak govt's lawsuit against Petronas

Petronas counsel Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar speaking to reporters after the hearing. - ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/THE STAR

KUCHING: The Court of Appeal has granted Petronas a stay of proceedings in the Sarawak government's suit to recover unpaid state sales tax from the national oil corporation.

Court of Appeal judges Mary Lim, M. Nantha Balan and Supang Lian allowed Petronas' appeal against the High Court's dismissal of its stay application after hearing submissions from counsel here on Wednesday (Feb 19).

High Court Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin had dismissed the stay application on Feb 11 and fixed March 13 for the hearing of the suit to proceed.

Petronas had applied to stay proceedings pending the outcome of its appeal against Chin's decision on Jan 23 not to recuse himself from hearing the suit.

Petronas' counsel Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said the Court of Appeal ruled that there were special circumstances warranting a stay of proceedings pending the appeal, which is set to be heard in Putrajaya on March 6.

"We said obviously this goes to the heart of the administration of justice and the issue of apparent bias," he told reporters after the ruling.

Malik said the judges also clarified that all directions given with regard to the suit were also stayed.

"The reason is that we are fixed on March 13 for hearing two applications in the claim brought by the government and the judicial commissioner had given directions for filing of submissions and so on," he said.

The state government is suing Petronas over unpaid state sales tax on petroleum products amounting to RM1.3bil.

The 5% tax under the State Sales Tax Ordinance 1998 came into effect on Jan 1 last year and Petronas is said to be the only oil company operating in Sarawak which has not paid the tax.

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