By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, Aug 29: State legal counsel Dato Sri JC Fong shares the view of State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar that Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How may keep the seat despite resigning from Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB).
He said under the law, the letter of undertaking must be submitted to the Speaker before an elected representative resigns from their party. In See’s case, the letter of undertaking was submitted to the Speaker after See’s resignation.
“The constitutional provision is valid, but for it to affect See, the letter of undertaking must be submitted to the Speaker before See resigned.
“The letter of undertaking after his (See’s) resignation has no effect. Therefore, it is useless,” Fong told DayakDaily in a telephone interview today.
Fong is responding to a statement made by Special Assistant to Chong Chieng Jen, Michael Kong, who quoted Fong’s statement in the media that Sarawak’s Anti-Hopping Law, as contained in Article 17(7) of the Sarawak Constitution, is constitutional.
Kong further quoted Fong stating that “anyone is free to change parties, but if he does so, he loses his seat to which he was elected under the party’s ticket”.
To Kong, Fong is the legal officer of the Sarawak government, and thus, any legal position Fong put forth would then be deemed as the legal position of the Sarawak government.
“After the resignation of See Chee How, (PSB president) Wong Soon Koh delivered a signed undertaking to the Speaker, and this would meet the expressed conditions in Article 17(7).
“With that being the case, then See Chee How should be deemed to have vacated his seat; especially so when this is the Sarawak government’s stance as expressed by JC Fong,” said Kong in a statement today.
Kong regrets that the Speaker of Sarawak DUN “has not taken a very neutral stand in this matter”.
“If See Chee How is to allege that the undertaking was not voluntary or for whatsoever reason, it should be for See Chee How to challenge the said letter of undertaking in the court of law.
“The fact of the matter is that as of now, there is an undertaking, and this would have met the conditions in Article 17(7); therefore rendering the seat vacant by operation of the law,” said Kong.
He said it was the people’s mandate during the 12th Sarawak Election that the Opposition, via PSB, shall represent the people for the constituency of Batu Lintang.
To him, safeguarding the sanctity of the people’s mandate should not depend on the arbitrary interpretation of one person, i.e. the Speaker.
At the same time, he urged the Sarawak government to immediately look into the current State Constitution to ensure that the current Anti-Hopping Law in Sarawak is not a toothless and cosmetic one.
“Any resignation from the political party in which the elected representative stood as a candidate must be taken as an act of resignation and trigger a by-election (if within three years from the election),” Kong said.
Asfia said the letter of undertaking signed by See should have been given to him 15 days after the last Sarawak Election, which polled on Dec 18, 2021.
He said See’s letter of undertaking was sent to him on Aug 15, three days after See submitted his resignation from PSB on Aug 12 and one day after he announced See’s resignation from PSB on Aug 14, 2022. — DayakDaily