'Crystal clear' replacement for repealed Article 6(7) needed before Sabah polls, says former CM Yong

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Constitution needs a "crystal clear" replacement for the deleted Article 6(7) that previously guided the head of state to appoint a chief minister, says Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee.

He said a select committee comprising all parties in the state assembly should be set up to draft a replacement for the deleted Article before the Sabah polls due by September next year.

"(This is) so that the constitutional provision on the appointment of a chief minister by the head of state can be made without any room for doubt," the former chief minister said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 27).

Yong was weighing in on the issue after state opposition Parti Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said Article 6(7) will be reinstated if his party takes over the state government.

ALSO READ: Warisan will restore Article 6(7) in Sabah Constitution if it comes to power, says Shafie

Mohd Shafie said he wanted to reinstate the Article – introduced by the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government led by then chief minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan in 1990 – to be read together with Article 6(3) to make sure the appointment follows the democratic process.

Article 6(3) reads: "The Yang di-Pertua Negeri shall appoint as Chief Minister a member of the Legislative Assembly who in his judgement is likely to command the confidence of a majority of the members of the Assembly and shall appoint the other members mentioned in Clause (2) in accordance with the advice of the Chief Minister from among the members of the Assembly."

The deleted Article 6(7) reads: "For the purpose of Clause (3) (TYT's appointment of a CM) of this Article, where a political party has won a majority of the elected seats of the Legislative Assembly in a general election, the leader of such political party, who is a member of the Legislative Assembly, shall be the member of the Legislative Assembly who is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Assembly".

However, state government lawyer Tengku Datuk Fuad Ahmad said reinstating Article 6(7) could trigger instability.

He said the reason for its removal was to give the governor a free hand to appoint a chief minister who commands the majority in the legislative assembly.

The Article was repealed on May 25 last year by the state assembly.

Yong said he had suggested forming the select committee to draft a replacement for Article 6(7) during the debate on its repeal.

This was because the state could not rely solely on Article 6(3) for the appointment of a chief minister.

"This could lead to confusion like the so-called power grab of 1985," he said, referring to the swearing in of Usno's Tun Mustapha Harun as chief minister despite his party losing to PBS which won a clear majority in the state election.

Pairin was sworn in as the legitimate chief minister hours later, and Mustapha's appointment was revoked.

Yong said part of the reason for Article 6(7) being repealed was the blurred lines following the 2018 and 2020 state elections which saw electoral pacts that were not registered.

However, he disagreed with Fuad who had described the repealed Article as being poorly drafted.

"Article 6(7) has served Sabah well for a long, long time.

"It only became controversial in 2018 and 2020 when different parties had their own interpretations to suit their own advantage," he said, adding that the select committee should invite Pairin for proper context and facts on the Article.

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