High Court dismisses Sabah assemblymen’s dissolution suit against governor

Tan Sri Musa Aman (centre) addresses media personnel during a press conference at his home in Kota Kinabalu July 29, 2020.
Tan Sri Musa Aman (centre) addresses media personnel during a press conference at his home in Kota Kinabalu July 29, 2020.

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 21 — The High Court here today dismissed a suit against the Sabah Legislative Assembly dissolution by former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman and 32 assemblymen.

In dismissing the application for leave, Judicial Commissioner Leonard David Shim said that the Sabah governor has discretionary power to dissolve the State Assembly.

“The court found the TYT’s decision to dissolve the State Assembly non justiciable. He took great care in delivering the grounds for judgment and said the first and second respondent acted within the State Constitution,” said state Attorney General Brenndon Keith Soh.

“There is nothing to suggest there was a breach in making the decision; therefore, the decision to grant a dissolution is not justiciable by the court, because these are matters of high policy and discretion given to the TYT to decide whether or not to grant a dissolution and it was done properly in accordance with the law,” said Soh when speaking to reporters at the courthouse after the case.

He said that the decision means the dissolution is therefore valid and constitutional, and there should not be any uncertainty over whether a state election should continue or not.

“There has not been an application for stay. The court has dismissed the judicial review, so the democratic process for state elections is now in place and the Election Commission has a duty to ensure the state polls are held within 60 days of the dissolution,” he said.

Musa and the 32 state assemblyman had filed the suit in a bid to seek an injunction against the dissolution on July 30, simultaneously putting a stop to the state elections and declare that the Head of State Tun Juhar Mahiruddin had been ill-advised by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal in his decision to dissolve the assembly.

Meanwhile, counsel for the 33 state assemblymen, Tengku Fuad Ahmad, said that they have already filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that Shim’s judgment has acknowledged Shafie had lost the majority.

“The two good things that came out of this is that the judge found that the 33 assemblymen had the locus standi to bring this issue to court, and the court appeared to find that Shafie had lost the majority,” he said.

“So he had only two choices, which is to resign or dissolve the assembly. Unfortunately, there are two words from the judge where we disagree which is the use of the word ‘advice’ and word ‘request’. We will take this to the Court of Appeal because in Sabah we do not take the view that the words ‘advice’ and ‘request’ are the same,” he said.

Fuad said that Sabah differs from West Malaysia in that it does not have royalty and this is the role of a governor.

“So my instruction is to file an appeal, which we have done already. We expected this. This fight continues, and we have not given up and I believe my clients have not given up either. So the fight continues,” he said.

In his judgment, which took an hour to read, Shim said the court found that Shafie acted within his constitutional rights and powers to request the TYT to dissolve the state legislative assembly and that the first respondent acted within the ambit of his power to consent to the dissolution.

“The court also found that the dissolution and proclamation are not amenable to judicial review and are non-justiciable,” he said in refusing the leave.

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