Sabah governor has sole discretion to appoint new CM, says lawyer

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 16 Jun 2020

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin (pic) will have the sole discretion to appoint a new Chief Minister or agree for a snap election if Parti Warisan Sabah loses its majority in the 65-member house, says a legal expert.

Lawyer Brenndon Keith Soh said the appointment of a new chief minister would be based on the discretion of the Governor on whom he believes would likely command the support of the majority in the state assembly.

Soh, the former Sabah Law Society president, gave his views on the current movement of two assemblymen amid talks of more crossovers to create a new "majority" in the Sabah assembly.

Despite the loss of two assemblymen on Monday (June 15) within the Warisan-led state coalition government of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, the ruling coalition retains a two-third majority with 45 seats in the 65-member assembly with the opposition Perikatan Nasional holding 20.

The state opposition will need another 13 seats to obtain a simple majority in the house for any of its leaders to make bid to form the next government.

"Based on the current interpretation and practice of this constitutional power, the Head of State may decide who has the confidence of the majority by external evidence such as statutory declarations and/or interviews with the state assemblymen.

"Thereafter, the passing of the state budget would reaffirm and demonstrate such confidence in the state government," he said in referring to the various provisions under state constitution.

"If it is proven to the satisfaction of the Head of State that the Chief Minister has ceased to command the confidence of the majority, the Chief Minister instead of resigning has the option of requesting for the dissolution of the assembly, which would pave the way for a fresh state election," he explained.

However, Soh said that the Head of State need not grant the request to dissolve the state assembly as it is his sole discretion to decide whether to permit the dissolution of the assembly.

Unlike at Federal level, where the majority of the Perikatan government is reportedly slim, he said that the Sabah government had a substantial majority in the state assembly.

"Reports of potential 'floor-crossing' by elected assemblymen is neither constructive nor beneficial to the community unless and until it is actually demonstrated within the legal framework that the Chief Minister has ceased to command the majority," he said.

Former chief minister and Sabah Umno chief Tan Sri Musa Aman, who was ousted by Shafie after the 14th General Election, is widely seen as trying to gather enough assemblymen to mount a bid to oust Shafie.

On Monday, two assemblymen – Datuk James Ratib (Sugut) and Datuk Limus Jury (Kuala Penyu) – left Parti Upko to become independents supporting Perikatan.

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