November hearing on suit against Harris over Labuan
by Kelimen Sawatan. Posted on August 9, 2012, Thursday
KOTA KINABALU: The High Court set November 19 to 23 to hear a suit brought by a local businessman against former chief minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh over the surrender of Labuan to the federal government in 1984.
High Court judicial commissioner Lee Heng Cheong will also hear on that day Harris’ counterclaim of RM50 million for defamation against 59-year-old businessman James Albanus @ Richard from Kampung Biau, Papar.
In his suit filed on March 7, James, who undertakes research on social and political issues in Sabah and Malaysia, is seeking a declaration from the court that Harris on his part had acted unlawfully in the surrender of Labuan.
He is also seeking damages, injunctive relief, costs and interest.
In his statement of claim, James pointed out that in researching the creation of Labuan as a Federal Territory in 1984, he discovered that the surrender of Labuan to the federal government was unlawful following an interview with Tan Sri Simon Sipaun recently.
He said from the interview with Sipaun, who was previously the acting state secretary of the state in 1983, he discovered that the defendant had not sought the opinions, feelings and concerns of Sabah citizens, including he himself.
James claimed that the defendant had not undertaken a referendum in respect of the Labuan decision either among the populace and citizenry of both the Sabah state and Labuan island.
He also said the defendant (Harris) had acted unilaterally and individually without compliance with the relevant constitutional safeguards and also the well-being of the citizenry of Sabah state.
As a result of the defendant’s rash and unconstitutional action, James claimed the state government of Sabah and its citizenry suffered unquantifiable financial and social loss at the material time and for generations to come.
He said he would rely on information obtained as a result of his research and interviews with Sipaun and also would rely on Section 2 of the Labuan Order in Council 1946 during the trial of this action.
Meanwhile in his press statement, he believed that one of the main reasons why Sabah is not financially well off as a state is because of the surrender of Labuan by the defendant.
“In undertaking the transfer of this territory, he did not make a proper study and obtain the views of the people of Sabah, including myself.
“I have come across information provided by a very important person which has confirmed what I had suspected but unable to prove, i.e. the transfer was done rashly and there are many unanswered questions,” he said, adding that for that reason and for the people of Sabah, he is taking out this suit against the defendant.
Meanwhile, Harris in his statement of defence and counterclaim filed in June, said the making of Labuan as a Federal Territory on April 16, 1984 was resolved or decided collectively by the state cabinet of Sabah and/or sanctioned by majority members of the Sabah State Legislative Assembly, including an assemblyman for Labuan.
He said the purpose of the creation of Labuan Federal Territory was explained by him during a sitting of the Sabah State Legislative Assembly on March 8, 1984 and not made in an extremely haste and hurried manner.
Further in his counterclaim, Harris pointed out that the statement made by James which was published in the Daily Express on March 8, 2012, captioned Harris sued for giving away Labuan 28 years ago, was defamatory.
He held that the said statement bore the meanings and was understood to mean that he had surreptitiously surrendered or transferred the island of Labuan to the federal government in an unconstitutional manner for his own personal benefit or financial gain.
Harris added that the statement was also understood to mean that he had completely disregarded the economic well-being of the state of Sabah or its people or the Labuan people in transferring the administration of Labuan to the federal government and that he had personally caused the state of Sabah to suffer financial loss and/or not financially well off today by making Labuan a Federal Territory.
He also said it could also be understood that he had broken or ignored the State Constitution or Federal Law when allowing Labuan to become a Federal Territory and he is an untrustworthy political leader of Sabah who had undertaken unlawfully the creation of the Federal Territory of Labuan without approval by the state cabinet and/or the Legislative Assembly or its members.
By reason of the said statement, Harris claimed that he was put into embarrassment, exposed to public hatred, ridiculed and gravely injured in his feeling and reputation and suffered distress and loss and damage.
Counsel Marcel Jude acted for James while counsel Trevor Maringking for Harris.