Kuching High Court Judge Douglas Christo Primus Sikayun ruled that the Sarawak state legislative assembly’s decision to disqualify Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon was not valid, and that Ting would remain in the assembly This means that the state by-election will now be called off.
Prior to this, political parties were busy with the preparations for the upcoming by-election after the election commission fixed June 20 for nomination and July 4 for polling.
The court ruling that came shortly before the nomination has effectively turned the whole development around. Everything is now back to normal and Ting will remain the Pujut assemblyman and no by-election will be held.
On May 12, the state assembly voted 70 to 10 to dismiss Ting, who was said to possess dual citizenship in Malaysia and Australia. The news came as a big shock to the nation as it was the first time an elected rep was disqualified by a state assembly.
The move has triggered controversies and queries among the Malaysian public who are worried it would set a precedent for the rest of the country whereby the majority party in the assembly could vote out a rival rep, severely rocking the foundation of our democracy.
Judge Douglas pointed out in his verdict that the state assembly speaker had no right to dismiss any state assemblyman in an assembly sitting.
State assembly is a legislative institution and not a judicial institution capable of disqualifying any elected representative. Sure enough the state assembly is legally permitted to bar any representative within its jurisdiction.
But, disqualifying a state assemblyman through voting has breached the principle of independent operation of the Three Branches of Government by merging the functions of the judiciary and legislature. The legislature, the judiciary and the executive branch have their own distinct duties and are obliged to play their respective roles well while acting as checks and balances to ensure that the country is developing on the right track.
Although the majority will rule over the minority in a democracy, matured democracy is more than just a head count business, and the majority will still need to comply with the principles of democracy and rule of law.
Anyone intending to challenge the eligibility of any elected rep can do so in accordance with the proper channel in court, not by exploiting the majority advantage in an assembly sitting.
Simply put, a representative elected by the voters must never be simply dismissed in an assembly sitting because he or she represents the will of the people voting for him or her. The choice of the people must be respected at all costs.