KOTA KINABALU: The state government could opt to take a legal action against the federal government as a ‘last resort’ if the latter fails to fully implement the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), said Sabah Law Society president Brenndon Keith Soh.
He said that the state government would have this option, assuming that the implementation of MA63 were to fail even after the state government had exhausted all of its avenues.
“That would be the last resort. I am not saying that a legal action should be taken but based on my reading of the MA63 document, especially Article 8, provides for the states of Sabah and Sarawak to take any actions that is necessary to implement the recommendations of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC).
“So where do we go if there is no resolution to the implementation of the recommendations of the IGC? If it is not done by mutual agreement between the parties concerned, then, I believe that there is an avenue to go to court,” he told reporters when met at the Institute For Development Studies’ (IDS) panel discussion on Net Revenue Sources Under MA63 at Wisma Sedia, here today.
He opined that the courts would have the jurisdiction to hear disputes between the federal and state governments as what was done in Kelantan and Terengganu before.
He stressed that he was not suggesting for the state government to take legal action as he was merely pointing out that such approach could be considered as a last resort.
“But I am not subscribing (to the idea) that this should be done. The judiciary is there to interpret and to clarify any disputes on definitions involving the special rights and revenues that are due to the state,” he said.
When asked whether the Sabah Law Society would be standing behind the state government should the matter go to court, he said that one of the objectives of the society was to assist the government when necessary and to uphold the principles of justice without fear and favour.
“As this is a matter that affects public interest, the Sabah Law Society would not hesitate to apply to be an Amicus Curiae – to be a ‘friend of the court’ – to give forward its legal views only.
“In saying this, I think that it is very important to recognise that there is a Steering Committee that was just formed late last year and they had started to meet (convene).
“Perhaps, it is important for us to not derail what they (the Steering Committee) are trying to do by indicating that there are other avenues to resolve these issues of state revenues and special rights that are due to Sabah,” he said.
He reckoned that the committee should be given enough room to carry out its duties so that public would be able to see whether the former would be able to reach a consensus or some kind of agreement as to what is due for Sabah and Sarawak.
He said, in any case, any issues regarding the MA63 would also have to go through the court of public opinion.
“I think the more the public are aware of the rights that had been afforded to Sabah and Sarawak, the better it would be. (Since) it is the public who would be ultimately affected; it is the public who should have a voice in this – through their elected representatives,” he added.
Brenndon and Kemabong assemblyman Jamawi Jaafar were the panellists for the discussion, which was moderated by IDS chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun.
The discussion, which was attended by students, lawyers, NGO leaders, and government representatives focused on pertinent MA63 issues such the political perspective to do so, the state’s revenue rights and entitlements, the history of the MA63, challenges, solutions, legal remedies and so on.