Court dismisses Dr M’s bid to challenge composition of RCI panel

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad filed the leave application last Aug 9 to quash the RCI’s decision, made on Aug 8, to disqualify the appointment of Mohd Sidek and Saw as members of the commission . — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad filed the leave application last Aug 9 to quash the RCI’s decision, made on Aug 8, to disqualify the appointment of Mohd Sidek and Saw as members of the commission . — Picture by Miera Zulyana

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 13 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today failed in his appeal to challenge the appointment of  the chairman and a member of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the foreign exchange losses incurred by Bank Negara in the 1990’s.

A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh dismissed Dr Mahathir’s appeal against the High Court’s refusal of his leave application for a judicial review to quash the RCI’s decision of rejecting his request to disqualify the appointment of RCI  chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan and one of the members, Tan Sri Saw Choo Boon.

Justice Mohd Zawawi, who presided over the appeal with justices Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli and Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, said the court was of the view that there were several constraints and legal impediments if the panel allowed the appeal.

“We are unanimous that the appeal has no merit and therefore we dismiss the appeal,” said Justice Mohd Zawawi  and ordered Dr Mahathir to pay RM10,000 in costs to the government.

Earlier, Dr Mahathir’s lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla submitted that this was an arguable case that should go for full trial by way of judicial review.

He said the application had met the threshold and that the appeal was amenable for a judicial review. 

Senior federal counsel Alice Loke countered that the application sought by Dr Mahathir had become academic since the RCI report had been concluded and tabled in Parliament.

“In this case, as the two (chairman and a member) of the RCI have completed their task, there is no purpose to challenge the composition of the commission,” she said.

She also argued that the application for recusal was not amenable as the commission were members appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Dr Mahathir filed the leave application last Aug 9 to quash the RCI’s decision, made on Aug 8, to disqualify the appointment of Mohd Sidek and Saw as members of the commission.

He had named RCI members Mohd Sidek, who is also Petronas chairman, High Court judge Datuk Wira Kamaludin Md Said, Bursa Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tajuddin Atan, Saw, who is Special Task Force to Facilitate Business (Pemudah) co-chairman, Malaysian Institute of Accountants member K. Puspanathan, RCI secretary Datuk Dr Yusof Ismail and the government of Malaysia as respondents.

In his application, Dr Mahathir also sought a mandamus order for the government or cabinet to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to revoke the appointment of Mohd Sidek and Saw as members of the RCI.

Dr Mahathir filed the application on grounds that the RCI had breached natural justice as Mohd Sidek and Saw were also members of a task force responsible for the investigation that forwarded a recommendation to advise the cabinet to form the RCI.

On Aug 17, High Court judge Datin Azizah Nawawi  in dismissing Dr Mahathir’s leave application had ruled that the RCI verdict was correct and the panel had no jurisdiction or power on the appointment and/or removal of its members.

She said the RCI had correctly refused to accede to Dr Mahathir’s application to disqualify the appointment of Mohd Sidek and Saw. — Bernama

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