Recusal application by Petronas dismissed

Sarawak de facto Law Minister Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali walks out from the courtroom accompanied by Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Sebastian Ting.

KUCHING, Jan 23: The High Court of Sabah and Sarawak today dismissed the recusal application by Petronas with cost.

Judicial Commissioner (JC) Christopher Chin in his judgment said, “Having weighed the eloquent arguments of counsel and considered whether there is a real danger of perceived bias, it is my considered view that I, and all Judicial Commissioners for that matter, are not likely to be perceived by the informed casual observers that I/we are suffering from any perceived notion of being biased because our appointments, like the affairs of Petronas, are subjugated under the Prime Minister of Malaysia.”

He also highlighted eight reasons for his decision to hear the case; among which, he cited his solemn oath of office to defend the rule of law and the Federal Constitution and the independence of the judiciary in Malaysia.

“I, with hand over heart, conclude that there is no real possibility of perceived bias by a fair-minded observer having knowledge of the facts, and I dismiss the defendant’s application to recuse me under Enclosure 18.

“The application, even with the avowed best intentions of the defendant, is an affront to the Judiciary in Malaysia and if frivolous and without merit.

“I therefore award costs to the plaintiffs the sum of RM50,000,” said Chin.

Meanwhile, Petronas’ lawyer Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said in a press statement that they had been instructed to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals.

“I wish to make clear that my client applied to recuse the JC on the ground that the situation gives rise to an appearance of a conflict of interest. Petronas reports to the Prime Minister under the Petroleum Development Act 1974.

“The JC is a probationary judge who does not enjoy the security of tenure of confirmed judges. A JC is confirmed as a judge when appointed to that position by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The YDPA acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. As such, the recusal application was made in the best interest of the administration of justice,” he said.

Malik said the impression created by media articles published on the day of the hearing of the recusal application on Jan 14, 2020 were not correct.

“My client’s application was only based on an apparent of bias and no suggestion of actual bias was made.

“I wished to clarify that during the argument before the JC, no suggestion was made that he had reason to be worried about his confirmation, or that he would not be confirmed, if he decided against Petronas. All arguments we advance were focused on the appearance of conflict and nothing more,” he added.

Petronas applied for a stay of execution and the hearing has been fixed on Feb 5.

The Plaintiff; the Comptroller of State Sales Tax, Sarawak and the Government of Sarawak were represented by State Attorney General Datuk Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid and State legal advisor Datuk Seri JC Fong.—DayakDaily

Sarawak de facto Law Minister Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali reds out the judgement to members of the media accompanied by Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Sebastian Ting.
Malik (right) walks out of the courtroom in Kuching today.