KOTA KINABALU, May 25 — Sabah lawmakers have expressed concern over decision to append a constitutional amendment to remove a qualification to be the chief minister in the state’s proposed law to prohibit party hopping.
While welcoming the Bill for an anti-hopping law, the assemblymen questioned why the government was slipping in an amendment to the Sabah constitution as part of the proposed law.
In the Bill, the government also sought to delete Article 6 (7) in the Sabah constitution, which requires the chief minister to be the leader of the party with majority support.
State Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said that clause was significant to the process of democracy and should not be removed.
“These are two different things. The anti-hopping law, yes, we support it totally; we need it. But this is regarding the constitution. If it is not broken, why fix it?
“It was there for a good reason. The (state) attorney general who mooted this amendment, Stephen Foo, felt that there was a need for it. It is a significant provision to help prevent power grabs that could destabilise the government. The Sabah governor could be guided by this clause,” he said.
Kadamaian assemblyman and backbencher Datuk Ewon Benedick also echoed the sentiment, saying he was deliberately absent from the current parliamentary meeting in order to be present for the tabling of Sabah’s anti-hopping Bill.
“We have been waiting for this (anti-hoping law). But this clause is the basis for the Tuan Yang Terutama to appoint the chief minister. It is a clear guideline, why abolish it?
“I think we can support it (the Bill), but without the clause. It is a democratic practice. The chief minister should come from the party with the majority. If there is no clear majority, then the coalitions or parties can negotiate.,” he said.
Sri Tanjung assemblyman Justin Wong also protested the proposed deletion of the clause, and said he was shocked when he read it in the Bill.
Sekong assemblyman Alias Sani said deleting the clause could result in the chief minister being chosen by politicians, rather than the people.
Others also expressed concern include Tungku assemblyman Assafal Alian and Moyog assemblyman Datuk Darell Leiking.
Article 6(7) was included in the Sabah Constitution in 1990 to prevent power grabs in the government.
Appointed assemblyman Datuk Yong Teck Lee pointed out that the law was mooted during his time to prevent parties without an absolute majority to shore up their hold of power by inflating their numbers through nominated lawmakers.
The amendment was adopted after the 1985 state election when United Sabah National Organisation was temporarily appointed government despite having just 22 assemblymen as opposed to Parti Bersatu Sabah’s 25 assemblymen.
Usno’s Tun Datu Mustapha Harun was declared chief minister but his appointment was later declared null and void after a legal battle against PBS’s Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan. The latter eventually won the case and was recognised by the courts as the rightful chief minister.