PUTRAJAYA — Feb. 11, 2020: The DAP’s Pujut assembly Dr. Ting Tiong Choon has been disqualified when the Federal Court ruled today that the Sarawak state assembly had the power to do so in May 2017 and that its decision cannot be challenged in any court.
In a 7-2 ruling that overturned a Court of Appeal decision, the apex court cited Article 19 of the Sarawak Constitution and Article 72 (1) of the federal Constitution which state that the assembly has the final say.
But whether or not there will be a by-election depends on the assembly’s speaker since the law gives him that power to decide if a seat falls vacant less than two years from the end of the term of the assembly, which in this case is June 2021.
Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat presided over the bench that comprised Court of Appeal president Datuk Rohana Yusuf, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong, and Federal Court judges Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, Datuk Mohd. Zawawi Salleh, Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan, Datuk Ong Lam Kiat, Datuk Zabariah Mohd. Yusof and Datuk Hasnah Mohammed Hashim.
Ting was disqualified on May 12, 2017, for having Malaysian and Australian citizenship. He then filed a summons in June the same year to challenge his disqualification.
In delivering today’s decision, Justice Rahman pointed out that Ting’s loyalty to Malaysia was questionable after he had pledged loyalty to Australia and exercised the rights of an Australian citizen.
Rahman said a citizen cannot acquire and renounce a citizenship at will and when it suits him or her while, at the same time, refusing to give up Malaysian citizenship. Under the Malaysian Constitution, the person can be stripped of his or her citizenship.
Furthermore, a person who is disqualified for election cannot remove the disqualification simply by renouncing his or her foreign citizenship.
According to Rahman, Article 72 (1) of the federal Constitution prohibits a court from questioning the decision of a state assembly and the court would be in breach of that provision if it interferes with that power.