Dr Ting may face serious implications after Federal Court decision

Shankar Ram Asnani

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Feb 11: Senior Lawyer Shankar Ram Asnani holds the view that the Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon will be facing serious implications after losing his seat.

He lost in the “dual citizenship” case in a seven-to-two majority decision in nine-judge bench Federal Court today.

Shankar, who is representing the respondent Sarawak State Assembly Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar, said Dr Ting may apply for a review in the Federal Court but it would be highly unlikely that the application would be granted.

Shankar said “A decision of this nature strikes at the root.”

Following the decision by a rare nine-member Federal Court bench at Palace of Justice in Putrajaya today, Dr Ting lost his representation in Sarawak State Assembly and thus, his Pujut seat in a seven-to-two majority decision.

On May 12, 2017, the then Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh tabled a motion to disqualify Dr Ting on the ground that the latter owned dual citizenship.  The motion was passed in Sarawak State Assembly (DUN) and Dr Ting’s DUN membership was stripped off on the same day.

In response, Dr Ting challenged DUN’s decision and brought Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar, Wong, the Sarawak government to Kuching High Court on June 7, 2017.  The case went from the High Court and later the Court of Appeal.

On the decision itself, Shankar said it was a “very much welcomed” decision as the case showed that Malaysian judiciary was “quite independent”.

“Article 118 of the Federal Constitution says election matters should be referred to the election judge in an election court.  This matter however is beyond the jurisdiction of the Election Court.

“Here we have Ketua Hakim Negara, Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Binti Tuan Mat and Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri David Wong who gave dissenting judgment.  The seven other judges gave the majority decision.  It shows that our judiciary is quite independent.”

Shankar said the Federal Court came to judgement as the majority judges interpreted Sarawak State Constitution in harmony with the Federal Constitution.

“Because there is a special provision in our Article 19(1) of State Constitution, when read with Article 17(1)G, those who are disqualified could be removed from DUN.

“That is how the Federal Court made its decision.  Actually the majority decision interpreted the state constitution in harmony with Article 72 of the Federal Constitution,” said Shankar.

Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution states that “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”.

Article 17(1) deals with disqualifications of membership of DUN where in Article 17(1)G states that it says a person is disqualified for being elected as an elected member of Dewan Undangan Negeri when “he has voluntarily acquired citizenship of, or exercised rights of citizenship in, any country outside the Federation or has made a declaration of allegiance to any country outside the Federation”. —DayakDaily