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DAP: S'wak fooling the people on rights
Published on: Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Kuching: Sarawak DAP has uncovered an old news report that "supports" Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg's stand on why he won't debate Dewan Raykat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia over the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

"There is no point," Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen said at a press conference in Kuching Tuesday, where he showed a news report from earlier this year dated August 15. In the report, the State's legal adviser, J.C. Fong, argued in a case before the Federal Court that a Sarawak timber company had no legal or constitutional right to insist on the enforcement of a provision in the 1962 Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report.

"This is because the Sarawak government's legal adviser holds the same view as Pandikar Amin," Chong said.

"Fong had in August submitted that the MA63 and IGC Report had no legal force in Malaysia," Chong said.

The timber company had applied to set aside a ruling to revoke its 25-year timber licence on the grounds that the judgement was defective as none of the five judges had "Borneon experience", as stipulated under Clause 26 (4) of IGC Report.

Fong, a former state attorney general, told the court that Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia did not intend to enforce the provision of the IGC Report.

"The Sarawak government and Abang Jo should be truthful and frank with Sarawakians about the state government's stand on the MA63, the IGC Report and their legal effects," Chong said, referring to the chief minister by his nickname.

"On the one hand, the state government has repeatedly told Sarawakians that MA63 has legal standing over and above the Federal Constitution.

"On the other hand, the Sarawak government's legal adviser, while acting for the state government, tells the Federal Court that the MA63 and the IGC Report have no legal force."

Clause 26 (4) of the IGC Report states that "the domicile of the supreme court (the Federal Court) should be in Kuala Lumpur. Normally, at least one of the judges of the supreme court should be a judge with Bornean judicial experience when the court is hearing a case arising in a Borneo state; and it should normally sit in a Borneo state to hear appeals in cases arising in that state".

In the Keruntum Sdn Bhd vs Sarawak government case, the five-member bench of the Federal Court hearing the appeal ruled in favour of the state government, endorsing the government's action to revoke the timber concession granted to Keruntum.

"What the Federal Court overlooked was non-compliance to the IGC Report concerning the five members hearing the appeal. None of the five judges had Bornean judicial experience.

"Keruntum's lawyer thus raised this objection in his attempt to set aside the judgement.

"Instead of supporting the requirement of judges with Bornean judicial experience, the state government's lawyer told the Federal Court that the IGC Report and the provisions therein have no legal force and thus, legally, there was no requirement.

"The Federal Court is the only and the highest official forum in this country to interpret the Constitution and MA63.

"Yet, to the surprise of everyone, the Sarawak government lawyer in Federal Court openly denied that MA63 had any legal effect and supported the contravention of provisions in MA63."

Chong, who is also Sarawak Pakatan Harapan bloc chief, said one of the most obvious erosions of Sarawak rights under MA63 was non-compliance of the requirement for judges with Bornean judicial experience when hearing appeals from Sarawak.

Yet, he said, the state government condones and supports such erosion of power, "simply because the panel has decided the case in favour of the state government".

Chong said it just goes to show that the state government's call for autonomy and rights was "merely for matters of convenience".

"When it suits its interest, like the Keruntum's case, the state government is prepared to forgo and surrender our rights."

Chong said unless the state government could give a satisfactory explanation as to why Fong presented a contradictory stand in the Federal Court in the Keruntum case, all the talk of autonomy, the London trip, forwarding of historical documents to Najib and so-called discussion were nothing but smoke screens of Sarawak Barisan Nasional to deceive Sarawakians.

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