Sabah rights body supports move by SLS not to drop judicial review of 40% special grant

KOTA KINABALU: A body advocating for state rights has lauded the Sabah Law Society (SLS) for not dropping its pursuit of holding a judicial review against the Federal Government’s failure to conduct a review of the 40% special grant due to Sabah under the Constitution.

At the same time, the Sabah Action Body Advocating Rights (Sabar) said it was "very disappointed" by the Federal Attorney General’s (AG) application to stay the SLS’ proceedings pending their appeal to the Court of Appeal against the High Court’s decision in granting leave.

"Nevertheless, we are pleased that the SLS is continuing to pursue the state rights and guarantees as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and the Federal Constitution," said Sabar board of directors chairman Datuk Zainie Aucasa, in a statement on Sunday (Feb 5).

He said they fully supported the action by SLS which was in line with the aims and objectives of Sabar, a registered trustee, to champion the rights and interests of the people of Sabah.

"We hope that the state government will do the same and continue with the legal suit and reaffirm their support of SLS’ action.

"The 40% special grant that Sabah is entitled to under the Federal Constitution is sacrosanct and cannot and must not be trampled upon.

"The interpretation of Article 122D read together with the 10th Schedule of the Federal Constitution must be resolved judiciously by the courts of the country," Zainie added.

High Court Judge Ismail Brahim had on Thursday (Feb 2) granted the Federal Government's application to stay SLS' judicial review proceedings in the High Court.

SLS president Roger Chin had earlier in a statement said this was after the Federal AG had appealed the High Court's decision delivered on Nov 11 last year to permit SLS to proceed with their application for judicial review in respect of Sabah's 40% entitlement.

Chin assured, however, the society would be unwavering in its determination to pursue the matter, saying it would rigorously oppose the AG'S appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Towards this end, Zainie said that it would be in the best interests of all parties including the federal and state governments, and the people of Sabah to settle the matter promptly.

"The 40% issue has been a thorny issue for far too long and it is crucial that a speedy determination be achieved to preserve state-federal relationship," he said.

SLS had filed for the judicial review on June 9 last year to overturn Putrajaya's gazettement of the RM125.6mil annual grant for Sabah, saying it was not in line with the state's revenue rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

The special annual grant intended to be given to Sabah from 2022 to 2026 was jointly announced by the federal and state governments on April 14, 2022.

In granting SLS’ application for leave for judicial review against the Federal Government later in November, Justice Ismail had found that SLS had the locus standi to apply for the judicial review as it was a public interest litigation.

Justice Ismail also found that SLS' case was for the breach of the constitutional duty to pay the 40% entitlement for the Lost Years (1974 to 2021) which was a "justiciable" (a matter that can be decided for legal principles by a court).

In supporting the SLS suit, the Sabah government had also been included as a second respondent to the judicial review application on Nov 11 last year.

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