Corrected on 13 March 2009 at 12.30am
IPOH, 5 March 2009: The High Court has ruled that Perak state legislative assembly Speaker V Sivakumar can only be represented by the state legal adviser in the suits brought by 10 members of the assembly including newly appointed Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir.
Zambry and the six state executive councillors (excos) — Datuk Ramly Zahari, Datuk Saarani Mohamad, Hamidah Osman, Zainol Fadzi Paharuddin, Mohd Zahir Abdul Khalid and Dr Mah Hang Soon — are seeking a declaration that the Speaker’s decision in suspending them was null and void.
There independent lawmakers — Jamaluddin Md Radzi, Capt (R) Mohd Osman Jailu and Hee Yit Foong — want the court to declare that their Behrang, Changkat Jering and Jelapang seats are not vacant and that they are still legitimate elected representatives.
Counsel Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun, a member of the team of lawyers representing all the plaintiffs, told reporters that Judicial Commissioner (corrected) Ridwan Ibrahim accepted two points forwarded by his side to object the appointment of private lawyers to represent the Speaker.
First, he said, the Speaker is a public official and a branch of the government and his salary is paid through the state government’s Consolidated Fund.
Second, the preamble of the Perak constitution explains that the executive body to the state assembly is an organ of the state government, he said.
In the proceedings held in chambers here today, he said: “We submitted an objection that private lawyers do not have locus standi to represent Sivakumar because as a public official, he must be represented by the state legal adviser.
“We made the objection because the private lawyers also did not get written consent from the state legal adviser to represent the Speaker.”
Lawyer Chang Kok Keong who wanted to represent Sivakumar, said his side would appeal against the court’s decision as soon as possible because the Federal Constitution provides that an individual is entitled to be represented by counsel of his or her choice and not be forced to accept any other.
“This right is guaranteed under the Federal Constitution to each citizen,” he said.
He added that he argued this point but Ridwan reached his decision based on Section 24 of the Government Proceedings Act.
The court will hear the suit by the three independent assemblypersons on 11 March and the request by Zambry and the six excos on 23 March.
The court granted the adjournment following an application by state legal adviser Datuk Ahmad Kamal Md Shahir who said he wanted to get further instruction from the Speaker.
Hafarizam said that like it or not, Sivakumar could not deny the fact that he could only be represented by the state legal adviser as long as he was the Speaker.
On the possible conflict of interest since the legal adviser also represented Zambry in the suit filed by embattled Menter Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin in Kuala Lumpur, he said: “There is no conflict of interest because Zambry and the Speaker are the state government while Nizar is no longer Menteri Besar.”
He added that justice would be done because the state legal adviser acts in the interest of Perak and not individuals with political affiliations.
“I must stress here that a Speaker must be neutral,” he said. — Bernama