GRS leaders gunning for Sabah AG after lawyer's alleged misstep at Court of Appeal

KOTA KINABALU: Political parties aligned to the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition are calling for a revamp of the Sabah Attorney General's chambers, with some even demanding for state AG Datuk Nor Aisah Mohd Yusof to be replaced.

This comes following what was widely described as a "blunder" in arguments by state-appointed lawyer Tengku Datuk Fuad Ahmad during a judicial review on the state's constitutional right to 40% revenue at the Court of Appeal.

Fuad, among other arguments, stated that Article 112C of the Federal Constitution, which provides for the state to get back 40% revenue, was "not a mandatory or absolute right" and was just an "aspiration."

The latest call for a total revamp of not only the AG's Chambers but also the state administration was made by United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) president Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.

"I am very surprised to learn that Tengku Datuk Fuad was actually appointed by the State Attorney's Office via a letter dated June 8, 2022, as a lawyer representing the Sabah state government in the case of the judicial review application by the Sabah Law Society (SLS) vs the Federal Government of Malaysia," he said in a statement on Monday (May 20).

Pandikar said the appointment letter, now widely shared, came as a shock as the Chief Minister had told GRS component party leaders on May 17, that: "as far he (Hajiji) knew, there was no appointment letter for Fuad to represent the state."

Pandikar noted that Nor Aisah, in her statement on Sunday (May 19), had said that they would be correcting any 'misguided statement' related to the 'blunder' by Fuad during the Court of Appeal hearing on May 16.

Pandikar noted that Fuad's argument in court that the SLS had no locus standi for a judicial review on the state rights was "an explanation that should be thrown in the trash, embarrassing the office of the Attorney General of Sabah."

Pandikar said that the State Attorney General's action of not taking a serious attitude towards a case that was very important for the people of Sabah was clearly reflected by her absence at the hearing.

"Not only was she overseas on the day of the hearing, but there was also no official from the State Attorney's Department present to accompany Fuad in court.

"Such an attitude reflects a betrayal of the aspirations of the Sabah people who expect the state government to cooperate with Sabah lawyers and not go against them," he said, adding that it was tantamount to "negligence."

Pandikar also went on to demand that Sabah State Secretary Datuk Safar Untong also shoulder some responsibility as he was not seen as "hands-on" on all matters.

"To restore the people's confidence in the administration of the government led by the Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, I am appealing to the Chief Minister to massively reorganise the Sabah state government administration from the State Secretariat to district offices throughout Sabah," he said.

GRS component parties, including Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee, also called for a revamp at the State AG's office, while Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president Datuk Chin Su Phin also called for Nor Asiah's sacking.

Fuad was appointed to intervene on behalf of the state government in the Federal Government's appeal against the November 2022 Kota Kinabalu High Court decision to grant leave for the SLS's bid for a judicial review on the state's right to the return of 40% revenue, as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.

The argument by Fuad to block the SLS from being granted leave for the judicial review on the revenue rights at the Court of Appeal triggered not only a political storm but was widely questioned on social media.

"The 40% special grant revenue was an aspirational Article, designed for something to work towards as opposed to being an absolute right," he had submitted at the Court of Appeal.

The three-member Court of Appeal bench reserved their judgement on the Federal Government's appeal and set May 24 for case management.

On May 17, Hajiji said that Sabah will not relent in its pursuit of the 40% revenue entitlement owed by Putrajaya under Articles 112C and 112D of the Federal Constitution.

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