Sarawak Speaker bids to contest ruling in Pujut rep’s case

Sulok Tawie
Sarawak State Assembly Speaker, Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar (second right) with his lawyers at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya. — Bernama pic

KUCHING, July 16 — Sarawak Speaker Datuk Amar Asfia Awang Nasar said he will apply for the Federal Court’s leave to contest the Court of Appeal decision’s on Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon’s qualification to be a lawmaker.

He said the interpretations given by appellate court judges Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Datuk Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal on the relevant provisions of the Federal and State Constitutions are “too restrictive”.

“If such a 2-1 decision were to stand, I am sure all the other legislative assemblies and Dewan Rakyat would face crippling effect in enforcing certain very crucial provisions,” Asfia said at the resumption of today’s sitting of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly.

Abang Iskandar and Harminder ruled in favour of Dr Ting while Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan dissented.

Asfia said Lim gave a more appropriate interpretation of the relevant articles of the state constitution, which he claimed gave them a more appropriate meaning in the case of Dr Ting and his previous disqualification.

The Speaker said Lim had considered parliamentary privilege and disagreed with the findings of the High Court.

He noted that Lim ruled that the election of Dr Ting in Pujut was not questioned, but the qualification that is within the mandate of the state assembly to decide based on the State and Federal Constitution.

He further warned that the independence of the country’s legislative would be at risk if their internal affairs were subject to the judiciary’s intervention.

“The constitutional provisions should be read in harmony with other constitutional provisions to effectively forward the whole intent of parliament and/or prevent any issue,” he said.

“In light of these circumstances, it is inevitable that I have to instruct my advocates to make an application for leave to appeal to the Federal Court,” he said.

Last Friday, the appellate court dismissed the joint appeals by Asfia, state Minister of International Trade and e-Commerce Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh, State Legislative Assembly and Election Commission against the judgement of the High Court to reinstate Dr Ting as a member for Pujut.

Dr Ting was stripped of his membership for acquiring Australian citizenship in 2010.

Wong, who tabled a ministerial motion, said Dr Ting had breached Article 17(g) of the State Constitution for acquiring the citizenship of a foreign country.

Dr Ting renounced the citizenship just before the last state election in 2016.