Court denies Sarawak Speaker’s appeal, Pujut rep keeps seat

Dr Ting Tiong Choon (left) with Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen after the Court of Appeal gave its ruling in Kuching July 13, 2018. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Dr Ting Tiong Choon (left) with Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen after the Court of Appeal gave its ruling in Kuching July 13, 2018. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, July 13 — DAP’s Dr Ting Tiong Choon today remains the Pujut state assemblyman, after the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the Sarawak Speaker to disqualify him for previously acquiring an Australian citizenship.

In a two-to-one decision, the bench agreed that Speaker Datuk Amar Asfia Awang Nasar had exceeded his power to strip Ting of his membership.

Court of Appeal judges Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Datuk Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal were in agreement, while fellow judge Mary Lim Thiam Suan gave a dissenting judgment.

Abang Iskandar, who presided over the three-member bench, agreed with Election Court judge Datuk Judge Douglas Primus Sikayun’s finding that the Sarawak state assembly is not a competent body to decide on its membership.

He also agreed that the proper body is the Election Court.

Although Ting had voluntarily acquired an Australian citizenship in 2010, which could have disqualified him from entering the Sarawak State Assembly as spelt out under 17(1)(g), Abang Iskandar said the event took place before the May 7, 2016 state election.

He said it would have been a different matter if he had acquired the citizenship after the election.

Ting, however, renounced his Australian citizenship on April 22,2016.

Asked to summarise the court’s decision, Ting’s lead counsel Chong Siew Chiang said CoA’s decision was relying on an Indian court case.

He said the Indian case was about pre-disqualification and post-disqualification elections.

“Our argument was that what was wrong before the election was for the Election Court to decide, not for the state assembly to interfere.

“So the state assembly had exceeded its power to deal with the matter. It has to be dealt with by the Election Court,” he said, explaining the reasons for CoA to uphold the decision of the Election Court in Ting’s application to reinstate his membership of the state assembly.

“I am sorry to say that that the Speaker has exceeded his power to strip Ting of the membership,” Chong, who is the father of Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen, said.

On May 12 last year, the Sarawak state assembly passed a ministerial motion to disqualified Ting of his membership, representing the state seat of Pujut.

State International Trade and e-Commerce Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon, who tabled the motion, had said that Dr Ting was no longer qualified to be a member of the state assembly after he had acquired an Australian citizenship, registered as a voter there, and pledged allegiance to a country outside the federation of Malaysia.

He said had Ting had contravened Article 17(1)(g) of the state Constitution, and as such he was not a fit and proper person to be a member of the august House.

The House voted 70 in favour and 10 against the motion.

However, on June 17, 2017, the Election Court restored his post as the state assemblyman for Pujut with immediate effect.

Judge Datuk Douglas Primus Sikayun, in his judgment, had said the competent forum was the Election Court as provided for by Article 118 of the Federal Constitution.

Apart from the Speaker, Ting had also named the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly, Wong and Election Commission as respondents in his court action to re-instate his membership of the state assembly.

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