S'wak DAP rep disqualified from seat over alleged Aussie citizenship

Modified 12 May 2017, 10:00 am

A DAP state assemblyperson in Sarawak has been disqualified from his post, raising the possibility of a by-election for the Pujut seat.

According to Sarawak-based Chinese newspaper See Hua, the state assembly voted 70-10 in favour of Dr Ting Tiong Choon's removal.

This was after the state's International Trade and e-Commerce Minister Wong Soon Koh (BN-Bawang Assan) moved a motion against Ting for allegedly holding an Australian citizenship.

Wong cited Article 17(1)(g) of the Sarawak Constitution, saying that any person who willingly obtains foreign citizenship or exercises the rights of a foreign citizenship would be disqualified from being a state assemblyperson.

Wong claimed that Ting obtained his Australian citizenship on Jan 20, 2010.

He also alleged that Ting was twice declared a bankrupt in Australia, and claimed that the DAP member was unqualified, unfit and untrustworthy to be an assemblyperson.

Defeated BN Pujut direct candidate Hii King Chiong (photo) had previously filed an election petition against Ting's victory, but the Election Court dismissed it on technical grounds last year.

At a press conference aired on Sarawak DAP's Facebook page, Ting said he had renounced his Australian citizenship after he was recruited by Talent Corporation Malaysia (TalentCorp) to return to Malaysia.

He said the year-long process of renouncing his Australian citizenship was completed just prior to the Sarawak state election, which fell on May 7 last year.

He added that he never lost his Malaysian citizenship.

As for the allegation that he was a bankrupt, Ting challenged Wong to repeat the allegation outside the state assembly.

“I do challenge Wong to make that allegation outside the state assembly. If he can make it, let's see what happens,” he said, adding that there is "no logic" to the allegation.

'Utterly ridiculous'

Meanwhile, Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen decried Ting’s disqualification as "utterly ridiculous".

Chong said the allegation that Ting held dual-citizenship had surfaced even during the election last year, and yet the latter was elected.

“BN has lost in the judgment of the people, they have also lost in the judgment of the court, and now they took it upon themselves, using the blue majority to disqualify him,” he added.

Chong said while the state constitution disqualified those who have acquired foreign citizenship or exercised the exclusive rights of foreign citizens from being elected as assemblypersons, the constitution was silent on those who have renounced their foreign citizenship.

He said the matter should have been arbitrated in court, but BN has opted for the "easy way out".

Chong said he would look for legal avenues to challenge Ting's disqualification, but conceded that this might not be successful because the state assembly's proceedings cannot be challenged in court.

To a question on whether Ting had reacquired Malaysian citizenship when renouncing his Australian citizenship, Chong said Ting had always been a Malaysian citizen.

He pointed out that the Federal Constitution is worded as such that the government “may” revoke the citizenship of those who have acquired foreign citizenship.

“So the government may do it, or may not do it,” he said, referring to Article 24 of the constitution.

During the Sarawak state election last year, Ting won the Pujut seat in a four-cornered fight, with a majority of 1,759 votes against BN’s Hii and independent candidates Jofri Jaraiee and Fong Pau Teck.