KOTA KINABALU, Nov 28 — The Court of Appeal here has rejected former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman’s appeal against the dismissal of his lawsuit challenging the legality of Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal’s appointment as his successor.

Musa’s lawyer, Tengku Fuad Tengku Ahmad, said a three-judge panel agreed with a preliminary objection that the matter was now “academic”.

“Obviously we are very disappointed with the Court of Appeal. We feel we should be allowed to run the appeal and have it heard on merit and not be dismissed based on mere technical grounds,” said Fuad.

The lawyer said they were likely to pursue the matter at the Federal Court as Musa was firm in his belief that the latter was still the rightful chief minister of Sabah.

Datuk Kamardin Hashim chaired the panel that included Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang and Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.

The panel also awarded costs of RM50,000 to Shafie and RM20,000 to the Attorney General’s Chambers when striking out Musa’s appeal.

Shafie’s lawyer, Datuk Douglas Lind, earlier argued that the challenge was no longer relevant as Shafie now commanded the confidence of an indisputable majority in the state assembly, with over two thirds of its lawmakers pledged to him.

He said Musa could, at best, muster the support of eight out of the assembly’s 55 lawmakers and could not conceivably succeed in securing a vote of no-confidence in Shafie.

Lind later lauded the appellate court’s decision as “the right one”.

“This affirms his (Shafie’s) position as the chief minister. We were confident with our preliminary objection. Our case is strong from day one,” he said, before adding that he was similarly confident of any further challenge at the Federal Court level.

Outside the court complex today, a small group of mostly pro-Shafie supporters gathered as over 300 police personnel kept watch.

The court was also briefly interrupted by a loud alarm that was later found to be the smoke alarm going off due to smoking in a prohibited part of the complex. No damage or harm occurred.

In May 2018, Musa sued after the Sabah Yang Dipertua Negeri replaced him as the CM after defections tipped the balance of power marginally in Shafie’s favour.

The High Court dismissed the lawsuit in November 2018 and upheld Shafie’s appointment as lawful and constitutional, citing the precedent of the Perak MB crisis from 2009.