Law on picking CM should be in place before 2025, says lawyer

KOTA KINABALU: A constitutional law should be in place before the 2025 state election to guide the Governor in appointing a chief minister, says the Sabah Law Society (SLS).

The growing call for a clear legal guide for the Yang DiPertua Negeri in appointing a Chief Minister comes after the state government deleted Article 6(7) of the Sabah constitution on May 25.

Article 6(7), which was included in the state constitution in 1990, was meant as a guide for the Governor to pick the leader of the winning party to be chief minister to avoid attempts by losing parties from grabbing power, especially by ramping up their share of assemblyman by including six nominated assemblymen to achieve a “majority”.

“In light of the state election coming within the next two years, it would be prudent to include a clear definition in the state constitution,” said SLS president Roger Chin yesterday.

He said under Article 6(3), the appointment of the chief minister was based on the Governor’s discretionary powers on “who in his judgement is likely to command the confidence of a majority of the members of the assembly”.

“This was very discretionary. The recently deleted Article 6(7) had served to guide the Governor on picking the leader of the party with a majority.

“Discretion should be fettered to ensure transparency and certainty in such appointments,” he added.

Chin said Article 6(3) and Article 6(7) served to clarify the powers of the Governor in appointing a chief minister from among the elected members of the legislative assembly following a state election.

The deletion of Article 6(7) was tabled together with the anti-party hopping law by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor recently.

In defending the state government’s move to delete the article, Hajiji said it gave the Governor a free hand to pick the chief minister.

Some have argued that the law was outdated, but others said the Governor is now not bound to appoint the leader of the political party that won the majority of seats in an election.

They felt that the Governor’s discretion was “very wide and open” after the amendment, and was no longer limited by the guidance under Article 6(7).

With the deletion of Article 6(7), political observers expect constitutional challenges ahead with future political developments after an election, given Sabah’s history of rough politics.

During the 1985 state election, Parti Bersatu Sabah led by Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan won 25 of the 48 seats, toppling the Berjaya state government led by Tan Sri Mohd Harris Salleh.

However, Usno president Tun Mustapha Harun, whose party won 16 seats, teamed up with Berjaya, which had won six seats, to get himself sworn in as chief minister.

They included the six nominated assemblymen to argue the combined tally of 26 seats gave them a simple majority to justify the then Governor swearing him in.

However, then acting prime minister Tan Sri Musa Hitam intervened, saying that the democratic process must be observed.

Pairin was subsequently sworn in and in 1990, PBS introduced Article 6(7) to stop such power grabs.

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