Saturday, June 19, 2010

Huge ruckus over RM1

PKR's MP for Batu bit a cop some time back and just the other day he discovered that he bit off more than he could chew.

Due to no fault of his, Tian Chua's position as MP is hanging in the balance simply over the interpretation of a rather straightforward phrase - "not less than RM2,000".

Balding lawyers, who have been trained to split whatever hair they have left over definitions, are now divided over whether Tian Chua has been disqualified as an MP because he was fined RM2,000, in default two months' jail, for biting the cop.

Ironically, the fine was reduced by High Court judge Datuk Ghazali Cha from RM3,000, in default six months' jail, because he did not want a by-election to be held.

Now, the quibbling has spilled over to involve the Election Commission and the Dewan Rakyat with the Commission passing the buck to the august House to resolve.

Legal precedence and case history suggest that a by-election has to be called because, as veteran lawyer-politician Karpal Singh said, Menglembu MP Fan Yew Ting had his seat declared vacant by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker in 1975 after he was fined RM2,000 under the Sedition Act.

It would be really tragically comical if the learned judge was not aware of the implications of Fan's case. Has the quality of the judiciary become so deplorable?

Article 48(1)(e) of the Federal Constitution states that an MP is disqualified if he is convicted of an offence and jailed for not less than one year or fined not less than RM2,000.

The debate now is whether the phrase "a fine of not less than RM2,000" means a fine of RM2,000 and above or RM2,001 upwards.

During current inflationary times, one ringgit does not buy many things, but it looks like Tian Chua's case is causing a huge ruckus - and creating legal and political history - over a buck.

The question to ask is: "Where does the buck stop?"