PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court in a majority 2-1 ruling today allowed a leave application by Musa Aman for a declaration that he was the rightful Sabah chief minister after the conclusion of the 15th state election in 2018.
Judge Abdul Rahman Sebli said the merit of the appeal by Musa and former Tamparuli assemblyman Jahid @ Noordin Jahim must be heard as the questions of law posed were of grave importance.
“This ought to be solved by the apex court and cannot be left hanging,” he said.
Rahman said the people of Sabah had the right to know whether Musa’s removal was done in accordance with the Sabah constitution. Judge Zabariah Mohd Yusof concurred with Rahman.
Bench chairman Mohd Zawawi Salleh, who was in the minority, said the applicants had failed to cross the threshold under Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act for the appeal to be heard.
“The questions posed had no practical effect and is a fruitless exercise,” he said.
He said the apex court would not decide on an academic issue even if it was of general importance.
He said the 15th state assembly had been dissolved on July 30 and elections must be held within 60 days. Zawawi added that the Election Commission had fixed nomination day for the 73 seats on Sept 12 while polling day is on Sept 26.
Musa was present to hear the verdict but told reporters he would issue a statement later.
Musa was represented by Tengku Fuad Ahmad while Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin appeared for Jahid.
The respondents, Sabah Governor Juhar Mahiruddin and caretaker chief minister Shafie Apdal were represented by state Attorney-General Brenndon Keith Soh and Douglas Lind respectively.
Tengku Fuad said they were “extremely delighted with today’s outcome on Musa’s position.
“We will ventilate the full constitutional argument before a larger bench,” he said.
Earlier today, Soh raised a preliminary objection that leave ought not to be granted as the state assembly had been dissolved.
Firoz, in reply, said the 10 legal questions posed raised key constitutional issues to be determined by the Federal Court.
“Musa should not have been dismissed because he never sought a dissolution from Juhar,” he added.
Unlike Perak, he said, the Sabah head of state could only appoint a chief minister but could not remove him.
Further, he said, Shafie was an unlawful chief minister and could not advise Juhar to dissolve the assembly on July 30.
On Nov 28, the Court of Appeal struck out Musa’s appeal against the High Court’s decision to dismiss his claim.
A three-member bench, comprising Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, Kamardin Hashim and Rhodzariah Bujang, had allowed a preliminary objection by Lind, Shafie’s lawyer.
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 judgment of the court.
Prior to this, High Court judge Yew Jen Kie had relied on the Perak case to hold that Juhar, first respondent in Musa’s lawsuit, had the power to dismiss the chief minister.