KUCHING, June 20 ― Sarawak’s assistant law minister Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali sought to explain today the state speaker’s appeal against a High Court ruling that overrode its disqualification of Dr Ting Tiong Choon as Pujut assemblyman.
She said the appeal had to be done to determine with a greater degree of clarity the precise boundaries of constitutional authority between the State Legislative Assembly and the judiciary which is essential for a functional democracy.
Sharifah noted the High Court decided that the state assembly had gone beyond its constitutional limits when it approved the motion to disqualify Dr Ting despite the provisions of Article 19(1) of the State Constitution.
“That provisions have declared that such a decision of the state assembly to disqualify the member is final,” she said when referring to the judge Datuk Douglas Primus Sikayun's ruling that the state assembly was not a competent forum to decide the membership of any state assemblyman.
In the ruling delivered on June 17, the judge said that only the Election Court had that power as provided for under Article 118 of the Federal Constitution.
Dr Ting was stripped of his membership for the Pujut seat on May 12 after a motion tabled by International Trade and E-Commerce Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh was supported by 70 state Barisan Nasional assemblymen and rejected 10 Opposition assemblymen.
Dr Ting was said to have contravened Article 17(1)(g) of the Sarawak Constitution for voluntarily acquiring an Australian citizenship in 2010, but renounced it just before the state election last year.
Sharifah Hasidah said a more authoritative judicial determination from a higher court on this important matter is essential on when or whether judicial intervention on the state assembly's proceedings is permissible under the doctrine of separation of powers between the various branches of government
“A proper interpretation of the provisions of Article 17(1)(g) on disqualification from election to the state assembly when a person acquired foreign citizenship is required,” she said, pointing out that the High Court in its ruling had not come out with a definitive interpretation of the Article.
She said the appeal to the Court of Appeal could provide this interpretation to provide guidance to all public bodies including the Election Commission and aspiring election candidates who have acquired citizenship of countries outside the federation of Malaysia.
Sharifah Hasidah said the decision of the appellate court on these issues will determine whether or not Dr Ting should vacate his Pujut seat in the state assembly as provided for under Article 18(2)(a) of the State Constitution.
“But more importantly, the decision of the appellate court would ultimately avoid future controversies on the precise constitutional boundaries between the legislature and the judiciary,” she said, adding that State Attorney-General Talaat Mahmood Abdul Rashid will file the appeal on behalf of the state assembly within the time prescribed by the Rules of Court.
Yesterday, State Assembly Speaker Datuk Asfia Awang Nassar filed an appeal against the High Court's ruling.