The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly today disqualified Dr Ting Tiong Choon as the DAP assemblyman for Pujut by citing his alleged Australian citizenship, thus necessitating a state by-election.
Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar decided on the disqualification, arguably the first such case in Malaysia, after Sarawak Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh tabled a motion calling for Dr Ting’s disqualification.
Wong stated that the DAP assemblyman had Australian citizenship which he renounced on April 4, 2016, just three weeks before the state election.
He also said that Dr Ting had been declared a bankrupt twice in Australia based on the Australian Financial Security Authority, on June 24, 2012, and on September 11, 2012.
He said Dr Ting was an Australian citizen and also a registered Australian voter.
He said all these had breached Article 17(1) (G) of the Sarawak Constitution and that by virtue of these offences, Dr Ting was unfit to be a member of the august house and should be disqualified as he had pledged allegiance to another country.
Wong said the DAP, in its haste to get an electoral candidate for the seat, had not done a background search and now it had to regret the decision.
The motion sparked a fierce exchange of words between Mohamad Asfia and Wong and Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Cheng Jen and Dr Ting.
When the matter was put to a vote, 70 assemblymen voted in favour while 10, from DAP and PKR, voted against.
The disqualification will see a by-election for the mixed urban seat in Miri.
Speaking to reporters later, Chong said the DAP would study the legal aspects of the disqualification to see if it could be challenged in a court of law, adding that it was no easy matter to challenge such a decision.
He said the assembly should have respected the decision of the Miri Election Court which had ruled against it.
“Basically, such a decision is about interpreting the State Constitution and this job has to be done by the Court.
“This is a very sad day for the state and the country. This is a travesty of justice and even the so-called evidence produced is weak and will not be accepted by the Court,” he said.
Dr Ting described the decision as undemocratic, especially to Pujut voters, but said it would not tarnish DAP’s reputation in the constituency.
In the state election held in May last year, Dr Ting, who received his training as a doctor in Australia, polled 8,899 votes to win the seat, beating his Barisan Nasional opponent Hii King Chiong, who garnered 7,140 votes; PAS candidate Jofri Jaraiee, who obtained 513 votes and an independent candidate Fong Pau Teck, who received 375 votes.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, when approached, said it was now up to the Speaker of the Assembly to inform the Election Commission that the seat had become vacant.
“Then, it is up to the commission to decide. At the same time, the DAP can choose to challenge the decision in Court. They can file an injunction against the by-election,” he said.