Anwar a MP? Why the continuing ambiguity?


KTemoc Konsiders

Remember the case of the … er … man biting a policeman during a protest in 2007? Yes, man biting a policeman, wakakaka.

Tian Chua a PKR politician and currently MP for Batu was charged with and found guilty of the bizarre offence, and fined RM3000 or 6 months jail, but on appeal in 2010 had the fine reduced to RM2000. He paid up.

But Article 48(1)(e) of the Federal Constitution states very clearly that poor Tian Chua would be disqualified from being a MP if he has been convicted of an offence by a court of law in the Federation and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to a fine of not less than two thousand ringgit and has not received a free pardon.

By the letter of the Constitution, he should have lost his seat. I recall reading the then comments of the late Karpal Singh who was very firm that in accordance with the law, Tian Chua was disqualified from being a MP.

In a TMI article titled ‘Tian Chua’s status remains a contention, with many preferring no by-election’ on 22 June 2010, journalist Baradan Kuppusamy had written:

Once again DAP chairman Karpal Singh has chosen to be right rather than be popular by announcing that PKR’s Batu MP Chua Tian Chang should be disqualified and insisting that the Dewan Rakyat Speaker declare the seat vacant. […]

Karpal took issue with the judgment not only because of the political statements the judge made but also the reasons he gave for reducing the sentence. Karpal said the reasons were irrelevant. 

Ghazali [Cha, then the judge in Tian Chua’s appeal] said that the reduction in the sentence was for the purpose of avoiding a by-election in the Batu constituency, that it was costly and unnecessary. Clearly a cursory understanding of the law tells us that the judge should not have made those remarks and that such considerations should not have been taken into account in a criminal appeal. 

The issue was whether Chua bit the policeman or not and if so what is a fair and just punishment. 

That’s why Karpal dares to say publicly that such considerations as cost and suitability of a by-election are “irrelevant” in the case and if Chua has been fined “not less than” RM2000 he stands disqualified according to Article 48 of the Constitution. 

The judge’s intentions to save tax payers money is truly “irrelevant” as the sentence has disqualified Chua and his only recourse is to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Karpal won’t let the issue pass on principle.

Karpal had also exercised that same principle in the shameful 916 scandal. Baradan Kupppusamy had written:

The fact is Karpal is the only PR leader on record who opposed the September 16 ploy by calling it immoral and unethical. All other PR leaders either supported or remained silent and by their silence are complicit in the exercise to engineer defections to topple the BN government.

Wakakaka. Indeed, how much we miss the principled pronouncements of DAP’s spiritual leader.

Back to Tian Chua’s fine, there was in fact a legal precedent on this issue, when in 1975 Fan Yew Teng, DAP MP for Menglembu lost his seat after being being found guilty under the Sedition Act and fined RM2,000 or six months’ jail on Jan 13, 1975.

The amount of fine was exactly the same suffered by Tian Chua 25 years later. Despite subsequent appeals and legal challenges, Fan Yew Teng lost his seat. So why didn’t Tian Chua lose his Batu seat?

I suspect BN didn’t have the stomach for another monumental loss in yet another by-election. The Batu seat has been a Pakatan stronghold and naturally Tian’s notional successor would have won easily by a landslide, but the humongous demoralizing effect on BN in such a by-election cannot be dismissed, and that on top of wasted resources in mounting a futile challenge to the Pakatan candidate in the tiger’s lair.

But far far far worse, the expected humongous loss would have influenced the thinking of many fence sitters, wakakaka

Hence unlike the Fan Yew Teng’s case, Tian Chua escaped being disqualified from being a MP, which might have possibly also disqualified him from standing in 2013.

Let’s now look at the 5-years imprisonment of Anwar Ibrahim, a conviction which renders his disqualification as a MP for Permatang Pauh.

He did not apply for a royal pardon; his family did; and we have been informed that a petition for a royal pardon must be filed by the convicted person him/herself, and not by concerned family members. Hence, to all intents and purposes, he has not filed a petition for a royal pardon.

So why is there this lingering ambiguity about his parliamentary status when he has been, by fact of law, disqualified from being a MP?