Wednesday, May 12

GE14 changes power, politics in Sabah

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KOTA KINABALU: For 24 years, the Barisan Nasional (BN) led by Umno had been ruling Sabah after taking over the administration of the state from Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) in 1994.

However, the power and political landscape in the state changed quite dramatically after the 14th General Election on May 9, which saw none of the contesting parties getting a simple majority to form a new state government and led to transition of power as a result of party-hopping.

Out of the 60 state seats, BN, and the newly-formed Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) with its allies PKR and DAP, both secured 29 seats, while Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) led by Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan won the remaining two seats.

On May 10, STAR agreed to join BN to form the government with a simple majority of 31 seats, enabling the then Sabah BN chairman Tan Sri Musa Aman to be sworn in before Sabah Governor Tun Juhar Mahiruddin as the Chief Minister of Sabah.

However, the simple majority gained by BN and STAR lasted only 48 hours.

In an unexpected turn of events, six BN assemblymen, four of whom were from Umno and two others from UPKO, quit the coalition and pledged their support to Warisan, bringing the total number of seats controlled by Warisan and its allies to 35.

The assemblymen were Datuk Hamisa Samad (Tanjong Batu), Datuk Abdul Muis Picho (Sebatik), Datuk Osman Jamal (Balung) and Jamawi Jaafar (Kemabong) of Umno, and Datuk Ewon Benedick (Kadamaian) and atuk Abidin Madingkir (Paginatan) of UPKO.

The simple majority transferred from BN and STAR to Warisan and its allies made it possible for Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal to be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Sabah on May 12, also before Governor Tun Juhar.

The swearing in of the ‘second’ Chief Minister of Sabah kicked off a power struggle and legal battle between Musa and Mohd Shafie as Musa refused to resign, saying that Mohd Shafie’s appointment was unconstitutional.

On May 17, Musa filed a writ of summons against Tun Juhar and Mohd Shafie, demanding the court to declare him as the rightful chief minister of Sabah.

Well aware of his rights, Mohd Shafie filed an application to strike out Musa’s writ of summons on June 5, but Musa withdrew the writ and replaced it with an originating summons on June 6.

On June 28, High Court judge Datuk Yew Jen Kie dismissed Mohd Shafie’s application to strike out Musa’s originating summons and ordered both leaders to submit their written submissions to the court before Oct 25.

The legal battle ended on Nov 7 when Judge Yew ruled that Mohd Shafie is the rightful chief minister of Sabah.

Even though the legal battle took almost six months to conclude, Mohd Shafie had continued to lead the state as Sabah Chief Minister.

Immediately after he and his Cabinet line-up took their respective oaths of office, Mohd Shafie requested a special sitting of the State Legislative Assembly to call for a vote of confidence in his leadership.

Despite the absence of the opposition assemblymen, Mohd Shafie secured the confidence vote during the special sitting, which also saw all backbenchers take their oath as Sabah assemblymen.

The opposition assemblymen except for Musa, who was seeking medical treatment in London, chose to take their oath on June 12 before the State Assembly Speaker in chambers.

However, the validity of the opposition assemblymen’s swearing in ceremony was questioned by Mohd Shafie who later demanded for a more proper ceremony to be held.

As a result, all the assemblymen supporting Musa, except Musa himself, had to retake their oath of office in a more proper ceremony on July 2.

Musa was sworn in as a Sabah assemblyman on Sept 5 upon his return from Kuala Lumpur.

However, he had to return to Kuala Lumpur later in the evening as he was summoned to present himself at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters in Putrajaya to give his statement in connection with several corruption cases.

On Nov 6, Musa was charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court with 35 counts of corruption over timber concessions in Sabah involving US$63, 293,924 (RM263,460,962.313), but was released pending trial on RM2 million bail.

The downfall of the Musa-led Sabah government and the success of Mohd Shafie’s newly formed party and allies to take over administration of the state has indeed changed the political landscape in Sabah.

It had also prompted the local opposition parties to form a new political coalition known as Gabungan Bersatu Sabah (GBS).

The GBS comprising PBS, Umno, STAR and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) was launched on Oct 24.

However, Sabah Umno practically collapsed last week when most of its leaders deserted the party and became Pakatan Harapan-friendly. — Bernama