Sabah's 1985 'power grab' may be repeated with removal of article from state constitution, says Warisan leader

KOTA KINABALU: The removal of Article 6(7) from the Sabah Constitution will open up possibilities for the “1985 power grab” to repeat itself, says a Parti Warisan supreme council member.

Chin Ket Chiun said Article 6(7) was introduced by the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government under former chief minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan after the 1985 state elections.

Article 6(7) was established to guide the Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negeri (TYT) in selecting a rightful chief minister after an election.

“But now, with the repeal of the law from the state constitution, the incident (power grab) that happened during Pairin’s time will be repeated,” he said in a statement here Thursday (Feb 29).

He claimed the deletion of the article had opened the door for legislative members to grab power by claiming a majority using the six nominated assemblymen.

“Article 6(7) has served Sabah well for generations, and there is always a reason why it exists. It is complete nonsense to say it was poorly drafted now.

“Since there is no Article 6(7) in the Sabah Constitution now, Article 14(1)(c) should be repealed to stop the TYT from appointing the six nominated assemblymen,” Chin added.

He said that without Article 6(7) but with Article 14(1)(c) maintained, political figures will be able to take advantage of the loophole to grab or remain in power.

During the 1985 state election, PBS had won 25 out of the 48 state seats.

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

They then used six nominated assemblymen to claim a 26-seat simple majority to get the then Governor to swear 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 PBS introduced Article 6(7) later in 1990 to stop such power grabs.

Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had said that if his party returned to power in the next Sabah elections, he would reinstate the Article, to be read together with Article 6(3), to ensure the appointment of the chief minister follows the democratic process.

On May 25 last year, the Sabah Legislative Assembly passed a law to stop party hopping, but at the same time, gave the green light to remove Article 6(7).

The deletion of Article 6(7) was tabled together with the anti-party hopping Bill.

Shafie was among the assemblymen who supported the anti-party hopping amendment but voiced objections to the removal of Article 6(7).

The Article, dubbed the “anti-power grab” law, was introduced on May 25, 1990, by the PBS government to stop losing parties from forming a government by utilising the six nominated assemblymen to attain a “majority”, a feature unique to Sabah’s legislative assembly.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor had explained when tabling the Bill that the rationale behind removing Article 6(7) was that it was no longer relevant to the appointment of the chief minister under Article 6(3) due to the current political situation.

He added that the amendment would give the governor more leeway in deciding who to pick as chief minister.

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