Thursday, June 4

Sarawak vs Petronas: Judicial Commissioner dismisses firm’s bid to recuse him

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Christopher Chin

KUCHING: Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin has dismissed Petronas’ application to recuse him from hearing the Sarawak government’s civil suit against the oil corporation over unpaid State Sales Tax (SST).

In the ruling this morning, he said the application was an affront to the judiciary, and was frivolous and without merit.

“To suggest that judicial commissioners can be perceived as biased because of their temporary tenure and that their appointment and future depend on the Prime Minister is itself and affront to the judiciary,” he said.

He, however, thanked the defendant Petronas for bringing up the application.

“One good thing has emerged from this application for which I am grateful to the defendant. I now truly understand and with sharp focus, the true meaning of adjudicating without fear and favour,” he said in an open court.

Chin said the defendant’s argument in support of their application for his recusal was cantered on a real danger of perceived bias.

They argued that as judicial commissioner his tenure is temporary and is subjected to the confirmation by the Prime Minister who is the person with ultimate control over Petronas, he said.

“The suggestion is that because of the pressure to earn confirmation to a fully fledged High Court Judge I may decide the cases to favour the Prime Minister who wears two hats, firstly in relation to my confirmation and secondly over the affairs of the defendant,” he said.

Chin said his solemn oath of office is to defend the rule of law and federal constitution.

He also pointed out that there were many instances where JCs decided not in favour of the government of the day and yet they still got promoted to judges.

Nevertheless, Petronas’ lawyer Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar told the High Court that they would file an appeal against the ruling.

Chin had also awarded RM50,000 to the plaintiff.

Chin, who is born in Kota Kinabalu, was a private legal practitioner for 37 years before he was appointed as a judicial commissioner about eight months ago.

Sarawak is suing Petronas for unpaid SST of RM1.3 billion.