Musa’s dismissal should be heard to stop future political crises, says apex court

The Federal Court says Sabahans have the right to know whether Musa Aman’s removal as chief minister was done lawfully and in accordance with the state’s constitution.

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court agrees with Musa Aman’s contention that his dismissal as Sabah chief minister in 2018 should be heard on grounds of public interest.

“It is public knowledge that this is not the first time that the people of Sabah had to face this kind of political turmoil and constitutional crisis, and it will not be the last if not finally resolved by this court, ” judge Abdul Rahman Sebli said.

The judge appeared to be referring to the political instability that ensued after the state elections in 1985 and 1994.

Rahman went on to say that the 2009 political and constitutional crisis arising from the removal of Perak menteri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin served as another reminder that the issues raised by Musa in the leave questions needed to be resolved by the court.

Last week, Rahman and judge Zabariah Mohd Yusof in a 2-1 majority ruling agreed that Musa’s complaint, though academic, should be heard.

Bench chairman Mohd Zawawi Salleh, who was in the minority, said the legal questions posed by Musa had no practical effect and would be a fruitless exercise.

Moreover, he said the 15th state assembly had been dissolved and the Election Commission had fixed nomination day on Sept 12 while polling day was on Sept 26.

Rahman, whose 34-page judgment was released today, said the legal questions raised by Musa were of grave constitutional importance and had far reaching implications not only for the state of Sabah but also for the whole country.

“The people of Sabah have an inalienable right to know whether the removal of Musa was done validly, lawfully and in accordance with the Constitution of Sabah.

“As it is, there is no closure yet on the issue of whether Musa had been lawfully removed from office,” he added.

Rahman said the governor dismissed Musa within approximately 48 hours after his appointment on May 10, 2018 when there was no request for dissolution .

The judge said the present case stood in contrast to the Perak case where the Perak menteri besar ( Nizar) made a request to dissolve the assembly pursuant to Article 16(6) of the state constitution which the Sultan of Perak denied.

“Unlike the Sultan of Perak, who is a Malay hereditary Ruler, the office of the TYT (governor) of Sabah is a creation of the Sabah Constitution.

“On this basis, the TYT may only exercise such discretion or powers which are specifically enumerated under the Sabah Constitution. Unlike a Sultan, the TYT does not possess any reserve power germane to that of a hereditary Ruler,” he added.

In the last general election on May 9, 2018, the Musa-led Barisan Nasional (BN) won 29 seats. The opposition coalition consisting of Shafie Apdal’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 Upko 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 had been taken against him.

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

On Nov 28, the Court of Appeal struck out Musa’s appeal against the High Court’s decision on grounds Shafie now enjoyed majority support of the assemblymen.