Petronas argues judicial commissioner should recuse himself from hearing Sarawak sales tax case

Talat (left) discussing related matters with Sharifah Hasidah (right) in the presence of Sarawak Legal Advisor Datuk Seri JC Fong (centre).

KUCHING, Jan 13: The High Court today fixed Jan 23 to decide whether Judicial Commissioner (JC) Christopher Chin should recuse himself from presiding over the High Court case where the Sarawak government is suing Petronas for unpaid 5 per cent State Sales Tax (SST) amounting to some RM1.3 billion.

According to State Attorney General Datu Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid, Petronas’ legal counsels’ main contention in requesting Chin to recuse himself was because he (Chin) is just a judicial commissioner, who would be promoted as a full judge in future if he continues to preside over the case.

“They (Petronas lawyers) were saying that JC (Chin) might be worried whether he might be confirmed as a High Court judge if he decides against the federal government.

“As a JC, his confirmation as a judge will depend very much on the Prime Minister’s advice. So if he were to decide against in favour of Petronas, then he will get his probably gets confirmation and if doesn’t then he will not get his confirmation. That is basically the gist of Petronas argument,” Talat told the media at the Kuching High Court here today.

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Talat had argued that if this circumstance applied to the JC, then it would also apply to all other judges, Court of Appeals judges and Federal Court judges, because their promotions depended on the advice of the Prime Minister as well.

Uggah (front row, eighth left) with other state cabinet members and GPS supporters outside the Kuching High Court Complex today (Jan 14, 2020).

The unpaid SST for 2019 of some RM1.3 billion was calculated up to June last year.

The Sarawak government is suing Petronas based on the Malaysian Agreement 1963, Oil Mining Ordinance 1958 and State Sales Tax 1998 as the basis of its case.

Among those present at the court today were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and other cabinet members including de facto Law Minister Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali and a strong presence of Gabungan Parti Sarawak supporters. — DayakDaily