KOTA KINABALU: Legal experts are continuing to debate the position of two Sabah chief ministers who were sworn in in a space of 36 hours.
The debate surrounds the precedent set by two landmark court decisions involving the move in 2009 by the Sultan of Perak to replace Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin with Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as mentri besar.
The second court decision was on the illegality of the removal of Sarawak chief minister Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan in 1966.
One legal expert, Sabah Law Society (SLS) president Brandon Keith Soh, said that the swearing-in of Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal on Saturday after Tan Sri Musa Aman lost his majority in the state assembly was binding in the principle of law set by the precedent in the Perak case.
He said the Perak case would be binding on what had transpired in Sabah, unless there were other circumstances, facts or law that might be considered by the judiciary in Sabah if a challenge were to be mounted in court.
Musa has maintained that he is the legal chief minister following his swearing-in last Thursday. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri, Tun Juhar Mahiruddin, informed Musa that he is no longer chief minister with effect from May 12.
Soh said that in the Perak case, the Federal Court decided in 2010 that the mentri besar’s majority could be determined by other means and not necessarily by a vote of no confidence in the legislative assembly.
In that case, the court noted that if the mentri besar had lost his majority and he refused to tender the resignation of the executive council, they were deemed to have vacated their respective offices.
“It was therefore not necessary to wait for a vote of no confidence,” Soh said.
However, he said that the Federal Court’s decision in the 1966 Sarawak case did not follow a similar line with the Perak decision, where a court found that a vote of no confidence was necessary to remove Ningkan.
In Sabah’s case, he said that in the event that there was a legal challenge to determine the legitimacy of the respective appointments of the chief minister, the interpretation of Articles 6 (3) for the appointment and Article 7 (1) for the removal of the chief minister under the state Constitution would be the centre of arguments in court.