Sabah opposition reps stay silent, so assembly sitting adjourned early

Stephen Wong (centre) and Phoong Jin Zhe (right) telling reporters about the early adjournment after opposition assemblymen did not join the debate.

KOTA KINABALU: The second day of the state assembly sitting ended unusually early today after none of the opposition lawmakers stood to debate the Sabah governor’s policy speech.

Opposition members were given a time slot to debate the speech but speaker Syed Abbas Syed Ali decided to adjourn the sitting at about noon as no one wanted to speak.

The first meeting of the first session of the 15th State Legislative Assembly started yesterday and is scheduled to end this Thursday. Each day’s sitting starts at 10am and normally ends about 5pm.

State Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wong was taken aback by the non-participation of the opposition members.

“I was surprised. It is not healthy. A strong opposition is needed to maintain a check-and-balance for the government.

“We have about 20 opposition reps but none of them participated in the debate … some of them left so early,” he told reporters after the sitting.

“Maybe this is early days and will get better tomorrow… maybe they’re still not used to being the opposition,” said Wong who is the Sabah DAP chairman.

Asked about the opposition members still refusing to recognise the new state government, he said: “I can’t speak for them but they were already sworn in, even for the second time.

“That means you’re recognising the House… why are taxpayers paying your salary (if you don’t participate in the sessions).”

Luyang assemblyman Phoong Jin Zhe said Tambunan assemblyman Jeffrey Kitingan, who is the assigned opposition leader in the absence of Sungai Sibuga rep Musa Aman, was allotted between 30 and 45 minutes to debate the speech.

“But it caught us all by surprise when nobody (from the opposition) wanted to speak. It forced the state assembly to end so early,” he said.

He said head of the backbenchers’ club Jamawi Jaafar, who is also Kemabong assemblyman, had told him earlier that none on the opposition bench was willing to speak.

Jamawi had tabled the motion of thanks to the Head of State for his policy speech, and it was subsequently debated by Abidin Madingkir (Paginatan), Tan Lee Fatt (Likas) and Calvin Chong Kiet Kiun (Elopura).

Karanaan assemblyman Masidi Manjun, however, said it was not unusual for the sitting to adjourn early.

“It has happened a few times in the past. It’s not compulsory for the YBs (assemblymen) to take part in a debate if they feel they have nothing substantive to talk,” he said.

Efforts to contact Jeffrey, who is also Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku president, were unsuccessful.

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