KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian today stressed his Australian permanent residency status is not the same as the Australian citizenship acquired by disqualified state lawmaker Dr Ting Tiong Choon.
He said Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen was confusing and misleading Sarawakians with his claim that permanent residency and citizenship status are the same.
“While I was in Australia for 17 years, I had never acquired Australian citizenship or exercised rights of citizenship in, or made any declaration of allegiance to any country outside the federation of Malaysia as my home is Sarawak.
“As soon as I completed my training as a cardiologist in Melbourne Australia, I returned to Sarawak to serve in a public hospital.
“Ting chose to serve in Australia after completing his medical schools and obtained his citizenship in Australia,” Dr Sim said when responding to Chong’s claim earlier today.
He said Dr Ting, by applying for an Australian citizenship, swore his loyalty to Australia and this is not required for permanent residence applicants.
“I came back to serve Sarawak and eventually was elected as the State Assemblyman for Batu Kawah as a Sarawakian,” he said.
Dr Sim, who is also Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president, said the Sarawak Constitution, unlike other states in Peninsular Malaysia, strictly prohibits non-Sarawakians to serve as a member of the State Assembly, the highest authority in the state.
He asked Chong if he was questioning the Federal Court’s decision to disqualify Dr Ting as a member of the state assembly or whether he was trying to propose non-Sarawakians to serve in the state assembly.
In a press conference in Miri earlier today, Chong said Dr Sim publicly acknowledged that he previously held permanent residence in Australia.
“When he gave it up, I am not sure. That you have to ask him,” he said.
Chong, who is also the Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, said Dr Ting had given up his Australian citizenship before he was nominated in Pujut in the 2016 state election.
“Citizenship and permanent residency status are practically the same, although they are different legally.
“The Australian government giving permanent residence to a person; that means that a person has the intention to reside permanently in Australia.
“Those who have acquired permanent residency should also be treated likewise,” he said.
Two days ago, the Federal Court, in a 7-2 majority decision, disqualified Dr Ting as the Pujut state assembly over his dual citizenship status.
On January 20, 2010, Dr Ting acquired the citizenship of Australia but renounced it five years later in 2015. His renunciation was accepted by the Australian Government with effect from April 4, 2016.
The apex court said the Sarawak State Assembly has the power under Article 19(1) of the State Constitution to make a decision on the continued membership of an elected member whenever a question is raised as to whether that member is qualified for election to the state assembly under Article 17(1 )(g).
Following a ministerial motion tabled by the then Second Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh on May 12, 2017, Dr Ting was disqualified as a member of the state assembly on grounds that he had voluntarily acquired an Australian citizenship.
The motion was supported by 70 members and 10 others opposed it.
However, on June 17, 2017, the High Court reinstated Dr Ting’s membership status which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal on July 13, 2018.