Sabah lawyers say nothing wrong going to polls with 60 state seats

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Law Society (SLS) says state elections can proceed in Sabah although 13 new state seats approved by the state assembly have not been tabled in Parliament.

Its president, Brenndon Keith Soh, said the society believed the exclusion of the seats would not invalidate the state election for the existing 60 seats during the 14th general election (GE14).

He said for the Election Commission (EC) to lawfully conduct polling for the new seats, its report on the seats must first be passed in Parliament with a simple majority, followed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong issuing an order to make the legal provision on the seats come into force.

“The EC has two years to conduct a review from August 2016, when the seats were gazetted (by Sabah), and the report must be submitted to the prime minister by August 2018,” he told FMT.

“We can only presume that the process is still ongoing.

“The point is that the whole constitutional process must be completed first, culminating in an order by the Agong. Otherwise, the state election cannot be held for the 13 new seats,” he said.

Earlier, Parti Warisan Sabah deputy president Darell Leiking said the state election might not be held together with parliamentary polling in GE14 after the current sitting of Parliament failed to table the new seats.

He said the new seats would be tabled only after the parliamentary election, if GE14 is won by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), and followed soon after by a state election.

“It can be done because the current Sabah government’s term ends in the middle of May,” he said.

GE14, which is due by August, is widely expected to be held in April or May.

In a statement earlier, state secretary Sukarti Wakiman said the new state constituencies would be tabled after the EC completes its study on parliamentary boundaries in Sabah.

Leiking said Sukarti may have raised the issue of federal seats as an “afterthought” since the new state seats failed to see the light of day in Parliament.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee meanwhile said Sukarti’s explanation was fallacious as the EC report had already been completed and submitted to Prime Minister Najib Razak on Feb 21 last year, as revealed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said.

Azalina had said this last year in reply to a parliamentary question by Leiking, who is Penampang MP.

Yong said Chief Minister Musa Aman must provide an explanation on the matter as Azalina had said that the report was being discussed between him and Najib.