Speaker says debating Sulu legal claim in Parliament will reveal government’s counter strategies

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 — Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Idris Harun said today he prohibited members of Parliament from debating the legal bid to seize Malaysian assets abroad by the self-styled heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate to prevent revealing Putrajaya’s counter strategies.

Azhar was forced to explain his decision to reject several motions that would have allowed the international suit to be scrutinised after Opposition lawmakers insisted today that the Speaker had made an erroneous ruling, which sparked an uproar.

“On the issue of sub judice, (Standing Order) 36 (2) states that there cannot be any mention of matters that are being deliberated by the court if the chairman finds it detrimental to the parties involved in the legal proceedings,” the Speaker said.

“When we talk about this Sulu matter, there’s already an ex-parte order that we have to pay US$15 billion (RM66 billion). Do we want to discuss and as this discussion takes place, we won’t know what would be said, and accidentally the government’s strategies are revealed and there will be criticism of the actions that are to be taken by the government,” he added.

“Thus, the other party can now read (our) strategies. Won’t that hurt the interest of the government in the litigation proceedings? Do we want to reveal our strategies to the world?”

Earlier, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim argued that the Speaker should at least issue a ruling to force the government to explain the factors that have led to the litigation, which is now a matter of public interest.

Anwar, MP for Port Dickson and a former deputy prime minister, appeared to have blamed the Najib administration for the suit, citing the decision to cease payment of RM5,300 cession money to the Sulu sultan heirs in 2013 after an attack on Lahad Datu by self-described ruler Jamalul Kiram III.

“This is an issue that is extremely sensitive not only to Sabahans but to the Malaysian people. How can a nation that is independent and sovereign and has its sovereignty challenged, its Parliament would not allow it to be debated,” Anwar said.

“I believe issues like this should enable you to delay deliberating every other item in the agenda so that Parliament could decide on a position, so that Parliament can support the government should the right course of action be taken,” the Port Dickson MP added.

Last Tuesday, the Paris Court of Appeal granted leave to Putrajaya’s application to suspend a previous ruling declaring Malaysia’s liability to a billion-ringgit settlement claimed by the Sulu sultan’s heirs.

Law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said on Wednesday that the leave meant the previous ruling was not enforceable in any country until an ultimatum is reached in Paris.

The Luxembourg authorities last week seized the assets of two Petronas subsidiaries on behalf of the Sulu sultan heirs in an effort to enforce an arbitration ruling they had secured against Malaysia.

The issue stems from an 1878 contract signed between the Sulu sultanate descendants’ ancestors and a British trading company, in which land in Sabah was leased in exchange for financial compensation.

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