Court strikes out Sipitang election petition

Yamani Hafez Musa is seen during his swearing-in ceremony as an MP in Parliament January 7, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Yamani Hafez Musa is seen during his swearing-in ceremony as an MP in Parliament January 7, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KOTA KINABALU, April 8 — Hearing for the Sipitang parliamentary election petition was supposed to start today, but the case was thrown out of the High Court here when lawyers representing Parti Warisan Sabah sought a postponement.

Judge Azhahari Kamal Ramli made the decision to strike out the petition by Noor Hayaty Mustapha of Warisan after deliberating on the postponement request for 15 minutes.

“The judge struck out the petition because they have not complied with court orders... you cannot take it lightly. And when you do not comply, it carries consequences.

“The judge found the petitioner not ready to proceed, and didn’t take court orders seriously,” Jeyan Marimuthu, the lead counsel for Sipitang MP Hafez Yamani Musa, told reporters outside the courtroom.

Hafez Yamani, the son of ousted Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman, was the respondent in the election petition.

The case was fixed in March for 32 days of trial, giving the lawyers for both the petitioner and respondent a month to complete filing the necessary paperwork.

But today, petitioner Noor Hayaty’s counsel asked the court for an adjournment to file witness statements and other documents after completing a document check at the Election Commission last Friday.

Jeyan said his team was ready to proceed, but the lawyers for the petitioner had not filed the witness statements despite being given seven days before the trial to do so.

“We are ready to exchange witness statements. They were given time to inspect Form 13 and 14 but no documents were filed. They were in breach of court orders and therefore was struck out with no orders of cost.

“We applied to strike out the case after their request for adjournment. This is the second time. Due to the abuse of process and the judge granted it, I think it’s correct.

“The petitioner is at liberty to file an appeal to federal court, and the court can decide again whether the judge was correct to strike it, that’s her right and we can meet her in court,” said Tengku Fuad Ahmad, another one of Hafez’s lawyers.

Noor Hayaty was represented by Chung Jiun Dau, Melanie Tann Mei Yan and Mohammed Fareez Mohammed Salleh.

Last Wednesday, the court had approved an application to recheck ballot boxes and Form 13 and Form 14 used during GE14 in the parliamentary constituency.

Noor Hayaty sought to nullify the 14th general election results proclaiming Hafez Yaman as Sipitang winner. She also named Returning Officer Matlin Dullah and the Election Commission as the second and third respondent, respectively.

Hafez, a first-term MP, won the seat by 852 votes on a Barisan Nasional ticket, polling 12,038 against his closest challenger Noor Hayaty who obtained 11,186 votes.

The court had last October struck out the petition with costs but the Federal Court in Putrajaya on February 18, remitted the petition to the Election Court for trial.

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