'Should we reveal our strategy to the world?': Art Harun shuts down debate requests

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 20 Jul 2022

KUALA LUMPUR: The issue of the Sulu claim will not be debated in the Dewan Rakyat because Malaysia has ongoing proceedings involving the matter abroad and the government's legal strategies should not be revealed to the world, says Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun (pic).

"Wouldn't that (debates) compromise the government's interest in litigation proceedings? Should we show our strategy to the entire world?

"The first rule of litigation is the element of surprise and the same applies in the first rule in war.

"YB has been complaining that we did not defend (our sovereignty) and now you want to publicly reveal our strategy?" questioned Azhar in the House on Wednesday (July 20).

"It is my responsibility not to allow this matter (to be debated)," added Azhar.

Azhar also said he was always ready to chair debates, including one on the Sulu claims, as he wasn't a career politician.

"I don't know how to play politics. Standing order 36(2) prohibits MPs from raising matters being considered by the courts," added Azhar.

Azhar was speaking after Hanipa Maidin (PH-Sepang), who argued that Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis’ (Warisan-Kota Belud) motion to debate the Sulu claims should not be rejected on Monday (July 18) on grounds of sub judice.

"Sub judice should be used sparingly and on a case-by-case basis," said Hanipa.

The issue began right after Oral Question Time ended on Wednesday (July 20) afternoon, when Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said it was unwise to reject a motion to debate the Sulu claims on grounds of sub judice.

"Then this means that everything cannot be mentioned (in this House), even 1MDB.

"How can an independent country's sovereignty be challenged and this isn't allowed to be debated in Parliament," added Anwar (PH-Port Dickson).

In response to Anwar, Azhar explained that among the reasons that led to claims by the self-proclaimed heirs of the Sulu sultanate in Spain and France, was because Putrajaya stopped paying the cession money of RM5,300 a year to the heirs since 2013.

"The Opposition leader himself mentioned that halts in payments had caused us to lose the court case.

"It is clear that this is a core issue in the litigation in Spain and France, as well as the arbitration proceedings," said Azhar, adding that there are ongoing court cases abroad and debates in Parliament could be sub judice.

Malaysia stopped paying the so-called Sultan Sulu's heirs their annual RM5,300 cession money since 2013 following the Lahad Datu armed incursion.

The RM5,300 cession money was part of agreements under the 1878 agreement signed by then Sulu Sultan Jamal Al Alam, Baron de Overbeck and the then maharaja of Sabah and the British North Borneo Company's Alfred Dent.

Malaysia took over the payments when it became the successor of the agreement following Sabah's independence and the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

Meanwhile, Azhar pointed out that a recent motion by Awang Husaini Sahari (PH-Putatan) to debate the matter had cited the Standing Order 18(2), which is the wrong rule, as provisions under the rule were on discussions in Parliament and not debates.

"So, because there aren't any debates, resolutions and votes, the Cabinet cannot be instructed.

"I see this motion has been misunderstood, 98% of the times when a motion is filed under Standing Order 18(2), everyone wants it (debate) and not discuss," said Azhar.

Earlier this week, the Sulu claim became an issue in Parliament after a motion to debate the issue was rejected.

The Sulu claim also became an issue at the Sabah state assembly when a motion to debate the matter was rejected.

On July 12, The Financial Times reported that bailiffs in Luxembourg had seized subsidiaries PETRONAS Azerbaijan (Shah Deniz) and PETRONAS South Caucasus on behalf of their clients. However, Malaysia had obtained a stay order on the RM63bil award. The assets have already been sold.

With the stay order, the final award, obtained by Spanish arbitrator Dr Gonzalo Stampa earlier, could not be enforced in any country pending a decision by the French court on the finality of the matter.

De facto law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the government was currently preparing for the hearing to quash the final award, although a hearing date has yet to be fixed.

Malaysia also filed criminal proceedings against Stampa for contempt of court in Madrid. This case is ongoing.

The controversial award obtained by Stampa has been disputed by Malaysia, which holds that he made the decision even as superior courts in Spain had issued a suspension order on the case.

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