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Mahathir fails to recuse Batu Puteh RCI chairman, two others
Published on: Wednesday, June 12, 2024
By: FMT, V Anbalagan
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Mahathir fails to recuse Batu Puteh RCI chairman, two others
The High Court refused Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s application to stay the royal commission of inquiry hearing on Batu Puteh pending the disposal of his judicial review.
Kuala Lumpur: The High Court has refused Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s application to recuse Raus Sharif and two others from the panel of the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into Batu Puteh.

Justice Amarjeet Singh also refused the former prime minister’s application for a public hearing of the RCI.

However, he allowed Mahathir’s application for leave to commence a judicial review on whether he can be represented by lawyers in the ongoing RCI hearing.

In his broad grounds of judgment, Amarjeet said an RCI proceeding is not amenable to judicial review by the courts, as decided by the Federal Court in the case concerning a video clip of lawyer VK Lingam discussing the appointment of judges with a third party.

“This is based on strong policy grounds. An RCI merely makes a finding, and gives its opinion and recommendations,” he added.

The judge also refused Mahathir’s application to stay the RCI hearing pending the disposal of his judicial review.

“An RCI hearing cannot be stayed at any stage or else it will come to nought. Public funds spent will go to waste,” he said, adding that the inquiry into Batu Puteh was a public interest issue.

In this case, he said, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had appointed individuals of high standing to make a finding.

Amarjeet said he was only granting leave to Mahathir to ventilate if the ex-prime minister had a right to have a lawyer representing him in the RCI proceedings.

Mahathir said lawyers should act for him since he is also the subject matter of the inquiry as stated in Section 18 of the RCI Act 1950.

Last week, Mahathir, who was prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and again between May 2018 and February 2020, filed a certificate of urgency seeking a quick hearing of his leave application.

Mahathir said Raus’s appointment was a gross violation of natural justice as he was an interested party.

Mahathir filed a judicial review in 2017 to challenge the legality of Raus remaining chief justice until 2020, after he was appointed as an additional judge of the Federal Court after reaching the retirement age set out in the Federal Constitution.

He said Baljit Singh Sidhu and Ridha Abd Kadir would have predetermined the issues as they were also members of a special task force set up in 2021 to scrutinise and give recommendations regarding Batu Puteh, including a review of laws.

Lawyers Zainur Zakaria and Rafique Rashid Ali appeared for Mahathir, while senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan and Ahmad Hanir Hambaly appeared for the seven-membered RCI.

On Feb 3, 2017, Putrajaya filed an application to review the 2008 decision of the International Court of Justice awarding Singapore sovereignty over Batu Puteh. However, the Pakatan Harapan government under Mahathir withdrew the application before it came up for hearing on June 11, 2018.

On Feb 14 this year, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim consented to Raus leading the RCI to look into why Malaysia had dropped its territorial claim to Batu Puteh.

Meanwhile, Rafique told reporters that Mahathir is scheduled to appear before the RCI tribunal today to give his statement on the subject matter.

“We will also take instructions from him to file an appeal on today’s ruling,” he said.

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