THE Federal Court, in a 7-2 majority decision on Feb 11, with finality pronounced that the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly incumbent for Pujut, Dr Ting Tiong Choon, has been disqualified as the elected representative.
Dr Ting had acquired Australian citizenship in 2010 without renouncing his Malaysian citizenship as he ought to have done as Malaysia does not allow dual citizenship. He renounced his Australian citizenship in 2016, prior to the state election to contest the Pujut seat for DAP.
The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly moved to disqualify him in May 2017, setting in motion the legal process that culminated with this apex court decision.
In delivering the decision, judge Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli alluded to Dr Ting’s divided loyalty to the country after pledging loyalty to Australia as its citizen.
“The state assembly was, therefore, not wrong to disqualify and remove him from the assembly as he was unfit to be a member or to continue to be a member of the assembly.”
Another point was raised — whether the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly speaker was within his rights to allow the motion to disqualify one of the assembly’s members, a point which the Federal Court upheld.
The decision should have settled this episode, but it appears some political rancour arising from it persists. Dr Ting has stated that he accepted his fate “with an open heart”, but has shown hardly any regret or remorse for what he did.
This has, in turn, ignited calls for him to reimburse the state assembly for all the remuneration he received since his election and for him to be stripped of his Malaysian citizenship.
The episode should not have degenerated into a partisan brawl between members of the Sarawak government and the state opposition, which DAP is part of.
Having dual citizenship is unethical and elected representatives, of all people, are supposed to uphold the highest ethical standards.
Australia, incidentally, went through what was referred to by some as “a constitutional crisis” in 2017 when some one dozen members of parliament and senators were uncovered to be dual citizens.
Australia allows dual citizenship, but does not allow dual citizens to be legislators to avoid questions over divided loyalties. Dual citizens are ineligible for election unless they take “reasonable steps” to renounce the foreign citizenship before nomination. Many of those legislators resigned.
This has nothing to do with political affiliation, or whether, in Dr Ting’s case, he had been a conscientious people’s representative. As a result of this unfortunate case, Pujut voters have been deprived of a representative as no by-election will be called as the current state assembly term ends in less than two years.
This Leader cautions political parties to always safeguard the principle that representatives elected to make and uphold the country’s laws must, at all times, be loyal only to this country.
A ruckus was raised before by the then parliamentary opposition when a member from a previous governing party, MCA, was uncovered to be holding Australian permanent residency.
What was good for the goose then surely is now good for the gander with the parties switching roles as they cross the parliamentary aisle.