Malaysia: Sarawak suit on hold, awaits decision on Petronas appeal

  • The Court of Appeal stayed proceedings to hear Sarawak’s suit to pursue sales tax payment from national oil company Petronas.
  • The three-man bench in Kuching decided that the court has to first dispose Petronas’ appeal against the high court’s rejection of its application to recuse a judicial commissioner. The appeal will be heard on 6 Mar 20 in Putrajaya.
  • Petronas counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar argued for a stay order, saying he was concerned if the court could not sit due to reasons beyond its control, he would have lost all recourse to stop the proceedings.
  • Malik also argued for the appeal for judicial commissioner Christopher Chin to be recused due to apparent bias.
  • The bench, made up of Supang Lian and Nantha Balan E. S. Moorthy and chaired by Mary Lim, unanimously agreed there was merit in Malik’s argument for a stay.
  • The court also ordered all high court directions on the case, including the exchange of documents, on 2 Mar 20.
  • Petronas had applied for Chin to be recused but in a decision handed down on 23 Jan 20, the judge dismissed the application saying there was no apparent bias.
  • Petronas applied for a stay of proceedings, saying it is appealing the dismissal. Chin again rejected the application, saying he would be failing in his sworn duty if he had given Petronas the stay it sought.
  • He had said by taking Petronas’s argument, he would then be perceived by the “informed bystander” to decide this case in a manner that would be biased in favour of Petronas so as to seek favour with the prime minister should his confirmation ever reach his bureau, or “rather, seek not to be in his black book”.
  • Chin had added he was bound by his oath of office and would serve “my one and only boss – the rule of law”.

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