High Court sets Sept 15 to decide on intervener application on ex-judges practising in S’wak

Tan Sri Richard Malanjum (left) and Tan Sri David Wong Dak Wah.

KUCHING (Sept 7): The High Court here has fixed next Tuesday (Sept 15) to deliver its ruling on whether lawyer Voon Lee Shan has the locus standi to appear as an intervener in the petitions to admit former Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum and former Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong Dak Wah as advocates in Sarawak.

A counsel for the two petitioners Chong Siew Chiang when met after the proceeding to hear Voon’s application to intervene in the petitions today, said as it stands now, only the State Attorney-General (AG) and the Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) would have the right to intervene in such petition.

However, Chong said it would be for the judge to decide whether Voon is qualified to be an intervener in the petitions.

He also disclosed that Voon, who is a fellow lawyer, had apologised to the Court and withdrew his remarks that were potentially contemptuous to the Court and judiciary.

“In the course of his (Voon) application, he made a lot of allegations against the judiciary but he apologised and withdrew them otherwise they are contemptuous but the merits of the petitions (of the former judges) has not been argued yet,” he said.

Nevertheless, Chong said he would feel proud and honoured if these two former judges were to be admitted as advocates in Sarawak.

Malanjum, who retired as Chief Justice in April last year, and Wong, who retired in February this year, are both from Sabah.

Chong opined that the fear that the two former judges were going to take away the business of Sarawakian lawyers was too far-fetched, adding that their admission as advocates in Sarawak was not an infringement of the state’s autonomy.

Meanwhile, Voon’s counsel Lim Heng Choo stressed that Voon applied as an intervener in the petitions as he was worried when his requests for the petition papers from the petitioners were rejected.

He said Voon, who filed the application to appear as an intervener in his personal capacity, would still have the right to appeal against the Court’s decision if it dismissed his application.

However, Lim opined that as a practising lawyer, Voon had a direct and genuine interest to make sure that the petitions before the Court complied with the Sarawak’s Advocates Ordinance, 1953

He argued that legal practitioners should not be excluded to be interveners even though the Ordinance stated only the state AG and the AAS would have the right to intervene.

“We have to make sure those applying to be admitted to the Sarawak Bar must comply with the Ordinance.”

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim presided over the proceeding today.

Chong was assisted in the proceeding today by a fellow counsel Tan Kee Heng.

Apart from Lim, Voon was also represented by counsels Patrick Voon King Fatt, Tiong Ing Neng, Addy Termizi Mohammed Tuah, Bartholomew Lopez, RJ Noel, Steven Sia, Wong Hock Siong and Peli Aron.

Last Wednesday, Voon said he had filed the application because of concerns that if a petition to admit non-Sarawakian as advocates or to practise in Sarawak is approved, it would open the floodgates for other Peninsular Malaysian lawyers to set up offices in the state, thereby defeating the objectives and spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Also on last Wednesday, Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) Kuching branch vice Chairman Liew Tang Chieh said his branch has conveyed its stance to AAS Central Committee that there must be a strict compliance of Section 2(2)(a), (b) or (c) of the Advocates Ordinance 1953 for any non-Sarawakian to practice as advocate in Sarawak.

The section basically stated that only lawyers with Sarawak connection can practice in Sarawak, he said.

Under the law, a person is deemed to have Sarawak connections only if he was born in Sarawak, has been ordinarily resident in Sarawak for a continuous period of five years or more, or satisfies the Chief Justice that he is, at the time when the question of whether he has Sarawak connections is relevant, domiciled in Sarawak.

Last Thursday, Sarawak’s de-facto law minister Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali said the state would not compromise on the law affecting non-Sarawakian lawyers who wish to practise in the state.

“We are firm and will not give up any of our rights,” she said.

However, she added that all applications by non-Sarawakians to be admitted as advocates and solicitors in the state would be considered objectively.

She said the authorities would take into consideration all factors including special circumstances and the decision would be left to the Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak after having heard all the circumstances.

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