Court of Appeal verdict shows SLS isn't a ‘busybody’, says lawyer

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Law Society (SLS) believes it has been vindicated over the contention that it was a “busybody” amid its legal battle for Sabah's entitlement to 40% of grant revenue following the ruling by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal had on Tuesday (June 18) unanimously dismissed the federal Attorney General’s appeal against granting leave to the SLS to proceed with a judicial review over the state’s constitutional right to receive 40% of its special grant revenue.

Its immediate past president Datuk Roger Chin said the appellate court had determined that SLS’ judicial review was not frivolous and should be heard on its substance before the High Court.

“The judges were satisfied that this is a public interest litigation.

“SLS was adversely affected as it has a real and genuine interest in the subject matter of the judicial review - it is not a busybody,” he said, in a statement.

On May 16, counsel Tengku Datuk Fuad Ahmad had referred to SLS as a busybody during a press conference, after representing the state government in the hearing of the appeal by the AG.

The Court of Appeal had allowed the state to intervene in the case following Tengku Fuad’s then eleventh-hour application, effectively becoming a co-appellant alongside the AG in its bid to quash the leave granted to SLS by the Kota Kinabalu High Court on Nov 11, 2022.

However, Sabah AG Datuk Nor Asiah Mohd Yusof has since taken over the case from Tengku Fuad whose services have been terminated amid his controversial arguments in court, including on the 40% entitlement to the state as being “an aspiration” which triggered a public outcry and political storm in Sabah.

Nor Asiah has also informed the appellate court during case management on May 24 that the state government is withdrawing its challenge against the position of the SLS in the case.

Towards this end, Chin said while the legal journey was still long, the first hurdle of judicial review has now been crossed, and that the SLS can now proceed to the substantive hearing.

“SLS may provide further explanations on the Court of Appeal’s decision and outline the steps ahead as the case proceeds through the court’s due process, as and when the need arises, for the benefit of the public,” he said.

In a separate statement, Datuk Brenndon Keith Soh commended the decision of the Court of Appeal in upholding the position of the High Court in granting leave to the SLS.

The legal adviser to the Chief Minister said the state government had conveyed its stand to the Court that this significant constitutional issue ought to be fully ventilated on the merits at the substantive hearing of SLS’s application in the High Court.

“In addition, we had further confirmed that we had withdrawn the earlier submissions made on May 16,” he said, adding the state therefore did not support the federal AG’s appeal.

“In the meantime and separately, negotiations are expected to continue between the state and federal governments on the 40% net revenue special grant under Article 112C and 112D of the Federal Constitution - as agreed pursuant to the interim arrangement between the respective governments,” he noted.

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