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Don’t bow to Petronas, says Sarawak Minister

16 Jan 2020 / 10:25 H.

KUCHING: Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin should not submit to the request by Petronas to recuse himself from hearing the suit brought against the corporation by the Sarawak government, opines Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah (pix).

The state Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture feels that Chin should be bold in upholding the independence of the judiciary, which is one of the three organs of the government.

“I am a little bit disturbed by that kind of argument of asking the judge or judicial commissioner to recuse himself. I hope the JC (judicial commissioner) will be strong in facing this kind of proposal or request, and then do something to make us feel very proud of the independence of the judiciary,” he said during an interview, here yesterday.

Chin, a Sabahan, on Tuesday fixed Jan 23 to decide on whether he should recuse himself from presiding over the case, where Sarawak is suing Petronas for unpaid State Sales Tax of RM1.3 billion.

This was following an application made by Petronas, whose lead counsel Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar explained was not because they questioned Chin’s competency or origin, but because he was merely a judicial commissioner who did not have “security of tenure”.

Abdul Karim, a lawyer by profession, said he was disturbed by what Malik had said in regard to Chin, adding that it would be an insult to the judiciary if Chin was to recuse himself.

“As a judicial commissioner in this case, he is bound by his oath in carrying out justice without fear or favour or without any kind of insinuation or threat by whichever parties that handle the case.

“We must respect the independence of the judiciary. We can’t have lawyers in court telling the judges or insinuating that if he doesn’t decide in our favour the prospect to go up will not be there. And then putting in words like the power to bring them (judges) up rests on the Prime Minister, to me this is wrong,” he said.

He added it was normal for judges to recuse themselves if they were personally acquainted with a litigating party or lawyer, but not for the reason of potentially missing out on the prospect of being promoted.

Abdul Karim also said that he believed Malik may have been instructed by Petronas to submit Tuesday’s application.

State legal counsel Dato Sri JC Fong told the media after Tuesday’s hearing that Petronas’ main ground for asking Chin to recuse himself was because he was just a “temporary judge” and that he might not be made full judge later on in his career if he was to continue presiding over the case. — TheBorneoPost

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