Musa Aman turns to Federal Court in battle over rightful CM

Former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman.

PETALING JAYA Former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman has filed an appeal in the Federal Court for a declaration that he was the rightful head of government two years ago.

Lawyer Anantham Kasinather, who is a member of Musa’s legal team, said about 15 legal and constitutional questions had been framed for the apex court to grant leave for the merit of the case to be heard.

“We should also be able to revisit the 2010 Federal Court ruling in the Perak case if leave is allowed,” he told FMT.

That controversial ruling held that the head of state could look into extraneous factors to determine whether the head of government had lost the confidence of the majority of assemblymen or MPs.

Anantham, who is a retired Court of Appeal judge, said the leave application was filed in December and they were waiting for a date to hear the leave application.

On Nov 28, the Court of Appeal struck out Musa’s appeal against the High Court’s decision to dismiss his claim as the rightful Sabah chief minister.

A three-member bench comprising Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, Kamardin Hashim and Rhodzariah Bujang had allowed a preliminary objection by Douglas Lind, the lawyer for Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal.

Kamardin said they allowed the preliminary objection, which effectively struck out the appeal, after agreeing with Shafie’s lawyer that the case was academic.

He said although the issues raised in the appeal on the rightful chief minister of Sabah were significant, they were not of outstanding public importance.

“Even if the projected appeal were to succeed, that would not make him (Musa) the new chief minister again as he does not meet the threshold under Article 6(3) of the Sabah state constitution,” said Kamardin who delivered the 51-page judgement of the court.

That provision states that the Sabah governor shall appoint as chief minister a member of the legislative assembly who, in his judgment, is likely to command the confidence of a majority of the members.

In the state election on May 9, 2018, Musa who led Barisan Nasional (BN) had won 29 seats. The opposition coalition consisting of Shafie’s Warisan, DAP and PKR secured 29 seats while Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) won two seats.

BN and STAR, which had 31 seats in the 60-member assembly, entered into a coalition government, leading Musa to be sworn in as chief minister on May 10.

However, two days later, five assemblymen from the United Pasokmomogon Kadazandusun Murut Organisation shifted their allegiance to Shafie’s camp.

Shafie was then sworn in as chief minister, which led Musa to seek a declaration from the court that he was still the rightful head of government because no vote of confidence was taken against him.

High Court judge Yew Jen Kie relied on the Perak case to hold that Sabah Governor Juhar Mahiruddin had the power to dismiss the chief minister.