KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 (Bernama) — The High Court here Friday ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the divorce petition brought by tycoon Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng against his wife, former Miss Malaysia Puan Sri Pauline Chai Siew Phin.
Judge Datuk Yeoh Wee Siam allowed Khoo’s application for the court to determine whether a Malaysian court had jurisdiction to hear the petition, saying the court was satisfied that Malaysia was the domicile of Khoo, 75, and Chai, 68.
The judge also fixed costs at RM15,000.
“The husband is a Malaysian citizen and he is domiciled in Malaysia. Unlike the position in the UK and even in Singapore, there has been no legislation enacted in Malaysia to abolish the common law rule governing a wife’s domicile of dependence.
“Therefore, under Malaysian law now, which still applies the common law rule, the wife’s domicile is dependent on her husband’s domicile. Since it is indisputable that the husband’s domicile is in Malaysia, it follows that the wife, even if she is no longer a Malaysian citizen now, is also domiciled in Malaysia,” Yeoh said.
She said that a person could have only one domicile at a time and since the wife had a domicile of dependence, legally the wife was not allowed to have her domicile of choice.
“The wife’s habitual residence is in England, but she is not domiciled there. She is not a British citizen. She is on a visitor’s pass or a tourist pass in England.
“It is renewable every six months. The wife is not guaranteed of permanent residence in England even though she has the intention to be domiciled there,” the judge said.
Judge Yeoh said domicile was not the same as nationality or citizenship or residence.
She said that for the purpose of Section 106(1)(vi) of Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA), in view of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and the fact that the wife already had ongoing divorce proceedings in England, she was satisfied that there were exceptional circumstances in that case which made reference to a conciliatory body impracticable.
On Feb 27 last year, Khoo filed an application for dispensation of the need to go before a conciliatory body for reconciliation before divorce, and to determine a preliminary issue of whether a Malaysian court has the jurisdiction to hear his divorce petition.
Chai, on the same day, filed a divorce petition in a London court, seeking a 500-million (about RM2.75-billion) settlement.
Chai wanted the English court to decide on the divorce proceedings as she claimed that she was no longer domiciled in Malaysia since 1980 and currently lived in England.
Khoo, who is chairman of international investment holdings company Malayan United Industries Bhd, which is primarily engaged in retailing, hotels, food and confectionery, financial services and property, and currently resides in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, had filed the divorce petition in the Malaysian court.
Khoo and Chai were married in 1970 and have five children.