Supporters travel from far and wide to show support for SLS, Sabah govt in 40% revenue entitlement appeal

KOTA KINABALU: Davy Jeffrey usually wakes up early every morning to tend to his farm in the Keningau district, some 120km from here in Sabah’s interior.

But on Thursday (May 16), he got up with a different mission altogether.

“I woke up at 5am to be at the Kota Kinabalu Court Complex to give full moral support to the Sabah Law Society (SLS) to defend the state's rights (40% revenue entitlement) under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63),” he said.

Arriving with other members from the Borneo Indigenous People of Sabah and Sarawak shortly before 9am, Jeffrey came in full traditional costume from the Murut ethnic group, including a headdress made of pheasant feathers.

He was among hundreds of Sabahans who turned up to await the outcome of a crucial court hearing that may compel Putrajaya to carry out its constitutional obligation of paying 40% revenue entitlement to the state.

The Court of Appeal was hearing the Federal Government's appeal against a Kota Kinabalu High Court decision to grant SLS leave for judicial review on Putrajaya's constitutional duty to pay the 40% to Sabah.

The Federal Attorney General is appealing for the case to be dismissed by the court on grounds that SLS had no locus standi in the matter as well as whether the case was justiciable.

A three-judge panel comprising Justices Ravinthran N. Paramaguru, Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali and Dr Choo Kah Sing, sitting in the state capital, subsequently reserved their judgement but fixed May 24 for case management.

This was after listening to the arguments by the appellant (Federal AG), respondent (SLS) and the Sabah government, which was allowed to intervene and become a co-appellant.

The Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) had filed an application to set aside the Nov 11, 2022, Kota Kinabalu High Court decision allowing the SLS leave to seek judicial review on the 40% special grant for Sabah.

Others in the crowd consisted of those from other indigenous groups as well as state rights activists.

They shouted calls of “40%” and “Sabah Bangkit” (Sabah rise up) outside the courthouse, with a significant presence of security forces on hand to keep the peace and respond to any potential incident.

Sabah leaders from both sides of the political divide also came including former chief ministers Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal and Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee.

Former Dewan Rakyat speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia and former deputy chief minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau were also among those seen arriving before the case was heard.

Shafie, who was accompanied by several Parti Warisan assemblymen, among others, said they were there to back the SLS.

“The case is important to uphold the constitutional right of Sabahans,” said the Sabah Opposition leader.

SLS immediate past president Datuk Roger Chin said their legal team did their best to argue their case.

“Hopefully that is sufficient to bring us home,” he said.

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