A rush to be an ‘instant YB’ after Sabah polls

Sabah Chief Minister Hajiji Noor is under pressure to decide who to appoint as nominated assembly members.

KOTA KINABALU: A unique provision in the Sabah Constitution that enables six people to become “instant YBs” is once again in the spotlight.

The provision under Article 14(c) of the state constitution provides for the appointment of six nominated members of the state assembly.

These appointments have been a talking point among political circles in Sabah following the swearing-in of Hajiji Noor as chief minister after Gabungan Rakyat Sabah secured 38 of the 73 seats in the state assembly.

With the GRS alliance, comprising PPBM, BN and PBS holding a slender majority, political pundits expect Hajiji to name six nominated members to further strengthen GRS against Warisan Plus in the assembly

Successive ruling parties in Sabah have used the provision for nominated members for political advantage. Hajiji’s predecessor, Shafie Apdal of Warisan, placed Upko president Wilfred Tangau as a nominated member, then appointed him deputy chief minister shortly after the 2018 general election.

Some in the Chinese community are hoping that Hajiji would name one or two of them for the nominated post and perhaps even a minister to represent them in the Cabinet as not a single GRS Chinese candidate won in the Sept 26 state elections.

Never has lobbying been so intense

But the pressure is also on Hajiji to name a representative or two from PAS, which would give the Islamic party its first presence in the Sabah assembly.

The push by PAS leaders and their Muafakat Nasional partner Umno for such an appointment is being vigorously opposed by a number of Sabah groups.

Political observers here said never has the lobbying for the posts been so intense.

“What is even more unusual is that we now have Umno and PAS leaders from the peninsula trying to dictate who should be appointed. This has many implications and some Sabahans are wondering if this is a sign of a more direct control of the GRS-led state government,” said an observer.

Former state assistant minister Pang Yuk Ming said it was time to revisit the original intent of having six nominated members.

“We should also ask if these six nominated posts are really necessary in this day and age,” said Pang, noting that the salary and allowances of each of these unelected YBs could amount to as much as RM15,000.

It was meant to ease the transition after independence

A senior Sabah lawyer who has served with the state government said the post as stipulated in Article 14(c) of the state constitution was supposed to be a time-limited provision following Sabah’s independence from British colonial rule in 1963.

The original intent was to enable senior civil servants to assist and guide the then inexperienced administration at a period when Sabah was not ready for independence.

“That was why the state secretary, state attorney-general, local government secretary and so on were among the first nominated members of the House. That is why nominated members are not disqualified if they hold public office,” he said.

The provision was supposed to be repealed after a certain number of years after independence pursuant to Article 71 of the Federal Constitution. Sarawak had a similar provision in its constitution but has repealed it. However, Sabah has yet to take that step.

Pang, who is Parti Cinta Sabah deputy president, said the provision should be used for its intended purpose, for appointees who are capable or have the calibre to assist the government.

He said the provision should no longer be used as a political tool to enhance the ruling party’s standing. He questioned the need for the appointment of nominated members to represent the interest of certain communities.