Pujut assemblyman’s status could still go either way

Dr Ting Tiong Choon

Dr Ting Tiong Choon

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – June 21, 2017: Several lawyers are of the view that there is a provision in the Sarawak constitution which may help overturn the recent High Court decision to retain Dr. Ting Tiong Chun as Pujut assemblyman.

The lawyers pointed out that Article 19(1) of the state’s constitution says that matters concerning the disqualification of a state assemblymen is within the purview of state legislative assembly.

Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd. Asfia Awang Nassar, through lawyer Shankar Ram, has filed an appeal against the decision.

Ting was disqualified from being an assemblyman by the assembly on May 12 for having once acquired Australian citizenship

The DAP assemblyman, however, challenged the disqualification and was reinstated five days ago.

Judge Datuk Douglas Christo Primus Sikayun ruled that the assembly is not a competent forum to decide on the membership of Ting, based on Article 118 of the Federal Constitution.

He added that those who are dissatisfied with election results must make an election petition to the court.

Contrary to the decision, Concerned Lawyers for Justice member Aidil Khalid argued that the state assembly does have the right to decide on the matter.

“Article 19 (1) of the Sarawak constitution clearly states that if any question arises whether … a member of the state assembly has ceased to be qualified for appointment or election as such, the decision of the assembly shall be taken and shall be final.

“It appears that the learned judge was referring to Article 118 of the Federal Constitution — methods of challenging an election result — which I think is a gross error since what is being challenged is not an election but rather the disqualification.

“Since the state assembly had decided to disqualify Ting, it is not up to the court to intervene,” said Aidil.

Another lawyer, Syahredzan Johan, shared Aidil’s view.

“What Article 19 (1) means is that a court has no jurisdiction to question the decision regarding the disqualification of an assemblyman.

“I have not read the judgement on the Ting case so I cannot comment in detail but it does appear that the court may have erred because of Article 19 (1),” he wrote to The Mole.

Syahredzan believed that the core issue of the appeal will be about the interpretation of this article.

However lawyer Zaki Azmi argued that even if the Sarawak government manages to prove that the state assembly is a competent forum to deal with this matter, it is highly unlikely that state assembly’s decision to disqualify Ting was right.

“He had given  up his Australian citizenship before contesting in the election. Thus the state assembly’s decision maybe be purely academic,” said Zaki.

The legality of Ting’s citizenship and his status were also discussed in cyberspace.

Journalist/blogger Datuk Ahirudin Attan described the court ruling as shocking.

“So does the ruling mean that anyone, even a Malaysian who holds the citizenship of another country, can stand for an election in Malaysia? 

“Does it mean a Malaysian can have dual citizenship? As I understand it, the answer to both questions is no.” he wrote at Rocky’s Bru.
Facebook-based political commenter Lim Sian See claimed that Ting had indirectly insulted the Federal Constitution for not renouncing his Malaysian citizenship after acquiring the Australian citizenship.

“By right, the onus is for him to renounce his Malaysian citizenship in accordance with the Federal Constitution after he had pledged loyalty to another country.”



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]