Relocation of registry could affect constitutional cases relating to Sarawak rights — Soo

Lina Soo

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KUCHING, Nov 15: The Relocation of Sabah and Sarawak High Court Registry to Kota Kinabalu effective today could affect constitutional-related cases in relation to Sarawak rights.

State Reform Party (STAR) president Lina Soo has expressed shock that Sarawak chief minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state government has compromised that the principal registry will be based between Kuching and Kota Kinabalu on a 10-year rotational basis.

She said that its removal from the state capital means that a Constitutional case in relation to Sarawak rights that would normally be filed at the principal registry here would have to be filed in Sabah.

“Sarawak lawyers will have no right of audience in the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak, as there is no reciprocal right of audience for Sabah and Sarawak lawyers in what is essentially the same court, in other words ‘The High Court in Sabah and Sarawak’,” she said in a statement.

Soo asked whether the Sarawak government have sued Petronas for the 5 per cent state sales tax on petroleum products, which the national petroleum company has yet to pay.

She wondered if the move by the federal government to relocate the registry with such urgency was an attempt to thwart the action of the Sarawak government to recover the sales tax.

“If Sarawak were to mount a case of a constitutional matter, for instance on Sarawak oil and gas rights, this means the registry may direct the matter to be heard in Sabah,” she said.

Soo alleged that the consequences can be dire if the power of the registry lies with a subservient Sabah judiciary.

“Ten years will do irreparable damage to Sarawak’s judiciary when it’s over,” she said.

She also reminded that on April 30 this year, Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) resolved to stand firm against any move to relocate the registry from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu.

“Citing Article 121(4) of the Federal Constitution that they have to inform and consult the state government of the decision, what ‘consult the state government’ means in effect and in law,” she asked.

She pointed that if the chief minister can make a ‘compromise’ with the federal government on such a serious matter without referring to the august House, then there is no need for the constitutional clause ‘consult the state government’ in the Federal Constitution.

Soo said she understood that to “consult” means to seek approval and consensus.

“Is there any consensus when the decision goes against the resolution formalised in DUN on April 30, 2019, and where is the sanctity of our DUN then,” she ask.

Soo explained that by allowing the registry to be moved to Sabah, it shows the state government’s lack of resolve and political will to fight for Sarawak, and its disregard for the will of the people represented by DUN.

“If the Sarawak government is serious in pushing for devolution of powers and ‘equal partner’ status as one of three nations in the Federation of Malaysia, then there should be a High Court of Sarawak with our own registry and Chief Justice of Sarawak.

“If the Federal Constitution needs to be amended for devolution of powers in Sarawak’s interests, it is nothing new and can be done, as the Federal Constitution has been amended for countless times,” she said.

On April 19, a circular signed by the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court, Datuk Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar, had stated that the registry would be relocated to Kota Kinabalu on May 1, but it was not carried out as planned following strong objection from the Sarawak Chief Minister’s Office.

On April 30, Sarawak DUN unanimously passed the motion to reject the relocation of the principal registry.

A motion to reiterate the Sarawak DUN’s protest against the relocation was rejected at the state assembly sitting on Wednesday (Nov 13) due to technical grounds. — DayakDaily