JC to decide on recusal bid in Sarawak’s suit against Petronas next week

Sulok Tawie
State Attorney General Datuk Talaat Mahmood Abdul Rashid (right) with his deputy, Safri Ali, talking to reporters in Kuching January 14, 2020. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Jan 14 — Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin Soo Yin will decide next week if he should hear a civil suit filed by the Sarawak government against the Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) on the imposition of the State Sales Tax (SST) on the export of petroleum products.

Petronas, through its counsel Alvin Leong, objected to Chin hearing the case and wanted him to recuse himself from hearing the suit.

“They were saying that Chin might be worried whether he should be confirmed as the High Court judge if he were to decide against Petronas and the federal government,” State Attorney General Datuk Talaat Mahmood Abdul Rashid told reporters after Chin has heard the objection by Petronas in the court’s chamber.

“They argued that because he sits as a judicial commissioner, his confirmation as the High Court judge depends very much on the prime minister’s advice,” he said.

“They argued that if he decides in favour of Petronas, he will be get his confirmation, if he is not, then he would not get his confirmation,” he said.

“Of course, we were saying that if that applies to all the judicial commissioners, then it should also apply to all the judges, from the High Court judges to the Court of Appeal judges and from the Court of Appeal judges to the Federal Court,” he said, adding that their promotions also depend very much on the advice of the prime minister as well.

Talaat said his side has no objection to Chin, a Sabahan, hearing the suit filed by the state government.

Chin, who was appointed as a judicial commissioner over a year ago, will decide on January 23 if should recuse himself from hearing the suit.

Talaat said the court will hear other legal points raised by both parties after the issue on Chin’s position has been settled.

Deputy State Attorney General Safri Ali said his side wants the court to hear the suit as soon as possible.

The suit is filed by the Comptroller of the State Sales Tax and the state government against Petronas over the non-payment of sales tax of about RM1.3 billion on the export of petroleum products in Sarawak.

In their application, the Comptroller of SST and the state government wants the suit to be transmitted to the Federal Court on the constitutional questions.

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