PM required to act fast on extra Sabah seats, court told

Leaders of the opposition Gabungan Sabah pact want a ruling compelling the prime minister to act on the report.

KOTA KINABALU: The High Court was told today that the prime minister is required to table before the Dewan Rakyat, without delay, any redelineation report he receives from the Election Commission.

Lawyer Yong Yit Jee said this was stipulated in the Federal Constitution, and it should have applied to the EC report on 13 new Sabah state constituencies, which was submitted to the government in February last year.

He said this in his arguments for an originating summons that seeks a court order compelling the prime minister to table the EC report in the Dewan Rakyat.

The seats in question were drawn up by the Election Commission in 2016 after the Sabah state assembly increased its membership from 60 to 73.

The summons was filed by a group of local opposition party leaders on April 2. The prime minister and the EC were named as first and second respondents. It is being heard by High Court judge Azhahari Kamal Ramli in chambers.

Yong and fellow counsel Banazir Japiril rebutted the government argument that the summons was an academic exercise because Parliament stood dissolved.

They said the next prime minister appointed after the 14th general election would still be bound by the constitutional provision.

Although Parliament stood dissolved, all three branches of government, the legislature, executive and judiciary, existed in perpetuity, he said.

Senior federal counsel Andi Razalijaya A Dadi, for the government, had said the summons was purely academic in nature now that Parliament had been dissolved, and he further argued that the politicians did not have locus standi to raise the matter.

He said it should have been in the hands of the attorney-general.

He also argued against an order of mandamus to compel the prime minister to table the EC report, saying it was also misconceived in law.

The summons was filed by Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) leader Yong Teck Lee, SAPP vice-president Shuaib Mutalib, Gabungan Sabah secretary Edward Dagul; SAPP electorial matters committee chairman Japiril Suhaimin; Parti Solidariti Tanah Air deputy president Edward Linggu; Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah youth chief Jovilis Majami; and Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah executive secretary Anesthicia binti Usun.

Yong told reporters outside the court later that the opposition leaders believe they have a strong case.

“Our facts are not disputed by the government lawyers,” who, he said, had not filed a counter-affidavit.

Yong said the action was not to prevent the coming general election from taking place. He said another party, Parti Cinta Sabah, had filed a suit to prevent the Sabah state elections from going ahead, and the court decided to hear both cases together.

The opposition party leaders were involved in a brief stand-off with security guards and police officers this morning when they were barred from entering the court complex.

Yong, who arrived at about 9.25am, demanded to know who had issued the order barring them. He said the complex was a public area. After a 20-minute standoff, a court official spoke to Yong and they were allowed to go in.

Asked about this standoff, Yong said that Sabahans must stand up for their rights and insist on exercising their rights. “Don’t give up. Eventually, we will win,” he said.

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