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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lawyer cries foul over debtor’s legal trouble

A Sarawakian lawyer is demanding that the case be heard in the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak and not in the peninsula.

KUCHING: A court case initiated by OCBC Bank in Kuala Lumpur involving a credit card debtor in Sarawak has drawn attention to a transgression of the legal system.

According to lawyer Chong Chieng Jen, there is no reason why the case should be heard in Kuala Lumpur when Sabah and Sarawak had its own High Courts.

Chong was alluding to a Sarawakian debtor named only as Woo who has been ordered to appear at a magistrate’s court in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 22.

Woo, who initially borrowed RM9,000 from his credit card in 2007 from OCBC Kuching, has been charged with accumulating debt totalling RM45,000.

Said Chong: “The defendant is a Sarawakian, staying in Sarawak and the business transaction is done in Sarawak.

“Since the subject matter is in Sarawak, the case should be heard in Sarawak. But now the case is to be heard in Kuala Lumpur.

“This is against the Malaysia Agreement because our country has two High Court systems – the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak and the High Court of Malaya.

“Neither one of them can have jurisdiction over the other. They are at par.”

Violation of rights

Chong also said that the summons issued to Woo was prejudicial in the sense that Woo had to spend his own money to fly to Kuala Lumpur and engage a lawyer to fight his case.

“It is not fair to him and to any Sarawakian later on. Sarawakians must join forces to put a stop to such practice,” he said.

Chong, who is Sarawak DAP secretary-general as well as Kota Sentosa assemblyman, said this was the third case that had come to his attention and the party was increasingly concerned at the systematic erosion of Sarawakian rights.

“Taking action against the man in Kuala Lumpur instead of in the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak is a transgression of the judiciary system of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak.

“It is also a violation of the Malaysia Agreement.

“This is one example of the systematic erosion of Sarawak‘s autonomy not only by agents of the government, but also by corporations based in Kuala Lumpur.

“Sarawak is an equal partner in Malaysia. We are not one of the states in Malaya,” he said.

Chong said that, on his part, he would be writing to Bank Negara, the Chief Justice of Malaysia, Chief Justice of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak and the Chief Justice of the High Court of Malaya.

He added that he would also write to the Malaysian Bar and the Sarawak Bar Council.

Chong, who is also Bandar Kuching MP, pledged to raise the issue in Parliament soon.

Puzzling figures

Meanwhile, Chong has also questioned how Woo who borrowed RM9,000 from his credit card in 2007 could have accumulated a debt of RM45,000.

He said Woo had in July this year verified with the OCBC Bank in Kuching as to his outstanding amount and was told that he owed the bank a sum of RM19,100.46.

“To be suddenly slapped with RM45,000 is puzzling Woo. How did it increase to RM45,000?

“He is being treated unreasonably by the bank and the lawyers, who represent the bank.

“If you look at the interest rate, if the payment is in default, the bank is charging you 17.5 percent per annum.”

On top of that, a one percent charge per month is added, and it means 12% per year.

“You add them together and the amount of interests charged on your debts is about 30 percent per annum… this is ridiculous,” said Chong.

He said Bank Negara should step in and do something.

“We must do something about this as this is clearly an exploitation of consumers. This is very scary,” he said.

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