Lawyer: Irregular, inappropriate procedure employed to postpone Petronas hearing

Dominique Ng. — file pic

KUCHING, June 12: Former Padungan assemblyman Dominique Ng says the manner in which the Federal Court case of Petronas vs the Sarawak Government was postponed is a procedural irregularity and an inappropriate way to seek an adjournment of hearing.

He said the way it was done it seemed like the Federal Attorney-General (AG) intervened on behalf of the federal government and the Federal Court simply conceded to postpone the case without need for a hearing.

“By right, both parties should go to the court and appear before the panel of Federal Court judges and Petronas may then apply for the case to be postponed.

“The Sarawak government may be given the floor to agree or object to such a suggestion. The judges will then decide based on the arguments of both sides.

“But in this case, it seems that the AG’s Chamber (AGC) which is the executive branch of the federal government just gave the instruction and the federal court just conceded to it,” Ng, a practicing lawyer told DayakDaily today.

He said the Malaysian judiciary system is centred upon the separation of powers between AGC and the Court, but in this situation, it seemed to be different.

“Even though AGC is representing the federal government, it is not above the law, so too is the federal government. The Federal Court, which is the highest judicial body, should be independent and not postpone a case just because the AGC instructed it so.

“This is a clear case of irregularity and an inappropriate way for adjournment of hearing. The way it was done seemed like the AGC intervened and the Federal Court just conceded.

“It is not only a procedural irregularity, but a very substantive rule of the justice system that we subscribe to, which is that all parties must be given the right to be heard before a decision is made,” Ng said, adding that the respondent party did not get the chance to be heard.

He said Sarawakians are now angry and demand an explanation of the role of the AG in this case.

“What they have done seems to be an attempt to subvert or impede the course of justice in this case,” said Ng.

On June 4, Petronas filed an application before the Federal Court seeking a declaration on the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA) to be the law applicable for the petroleum industry in Malaysia.

The declaration would make Petronas the exclusive owner of petroleum resources as well as the regulator for the upstream industry throughout Malaysia, including in Sarawak.

The Federal Court had originally set the case to be heard on June 12.

However, the Sarawak Attorney-General (SAG) team representing the Sarawak Government was notified by the Federal Court by phone late yesterday that the hearing was postponed to June 21.

“The Federal Court has acceded to the request by the Federal Attorney-General (Tommy Thomas) for a postponement of the hearing to enable him to consider whether the Federal government ought to intervene in this case.

“It is surprising that Petronas, who made the application and sought an urgent hearing thereof, has no objection to the postponement of hearing of the case,” said the Sarawak government in a statement yesterday in response to the 11th hour postponement without a hearing. — DayakDaily