Sarawak Assembly gives grounds in appealing High Court decision on Pujut rep

The Sarawak Legislative Assembly complex.

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KUCHING: State Assistant Minister for Law, State Federal Relationship and Project Monitoring, Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, said the Sarawak legislative assembly is seeking “greater degree of clarity” and the precise boundary of constitutional authority between the legislature and the judiciary, in its appeal against the Kuching High Court’s decision to overturn the DUN’s decision to strip Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon his seat.

“It is essential for a functional democracy,” Hasidah, said in a statement as she gave grounds for the assembly’s appeal today.

“The High Court has decided that the Dewan had acted outside its constitutional limits when passing the motion to disqualify the Member for Pujut despite the provisions of Article 19(1) of the State Constitution which declared that such a decision of the Dewan is final.

“Thus, a more authoritative judicial determination from a higher court on this important matter is essential on the issue when or whether judicial intervention on the Dewan’s proceedings is permissible under the doctrine of separation of powers between the various branches of government,” Hasidah said.

She also said a proper interpretation of Article 17(l)(g) of the State Constitution, on disqualification from election to the Dewan when a person acquired foreign citizenship, is required.

Article 17(l)(g) states: “a person is disqualified for being elected as an elected member of the Dewan Undangan Negeri if he has voluntarily acquired citizenship of, or exercised the rights of citizenship in any country outside the federation, or has made a declaration of allegiance to any country outside the federation”.

The 51 year-old Marudi-born Dr Ting was disqualified in the state assembly on May 12 on the ground he took up the Australian citizenship in 2010.

Dr Ting however had renounced it which the Australian government made final in April last year – just a month before the state election.

He never renounced his Malaysian citizenship.

The High Court had not in its judgment come out with a definitive interpretation of the Article, Hasidah said.

“Therefore, on appeal the higher court could provide this interpretation to provide guidance to all relevant public bodies, including the Election Commission and aspiring election candidates, as whether a person is still qualified to seek election to the Dewan once he acquired citizenship of another nation regardless of his subsequent renouncement of that citizenship.

She said the decision by the appellate court on these issues would not only determine whether Dr Ting should vacate his seat in the Dewan under Article 18(2)(a) of the State Constitution but more importantly, the decision would ultimately “avoid future controversies on the precise constitutional boundaries between the legislature and the judiciary so that the state could have a stable and functional system of democratic government “conducive for the sustaining the harmony and development progress of Sarawak”. –