High Court quashes legal challenge against Sabah assembly dissolution

It paves way for state polls scheduled on Sept 26; plaintiff to appeal decision at Court of Appeal

Malaysia's High Court has dismissed a legal challenge against the dissolution of the Sabah state assembly, paving the way for a state election to take place as scheduled at the end of next month.

In a decision yesterday, the High Court in Kota Kinabalu did not grant leave for the state's former chief minister Musa Aman to challenge the dissolution, which was consented to by the state's Governor Juhar Mahiruddin on July 30.

Judicial Commissioner Leonard David Shim said that Tun Juhar has discretionary powers to dissolve the state assembly and the decision by the head of state is not justiciable.

Tan Sri Musa's lawyer said that his client will appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal.

The Election Commission had earlier this week announced that an election is scheduled to take place on Sept 26.

Mr Musa and 32 other Sabah assemblymen had filed the suit after his attempt at returning as the state's chief minister via defections was thwarted by the governor's move to consent to a dissolution requested by incumbent chief minister Shafie Apdal.

Mr Musa had secured 13 defections from Datuk Seri Shafie's camp and was planning to meet the governor to demonstrate that he possessed the majority in the assembly. However, Mr Shafie requested a dissolution, saying the mandate should be returned to the voters in the state.

The attempted takeover in Sabah mirrors moves in other parts of Malaysia that saw a long line of state administrations falling to Malaysia's ruling coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) via defections.

Perak, Kedah, Johor and Melaka had all changed hands from Pakatan Harapan (PH) to PN thanks to defections.

The PN federal government was formed through defections as well, with the crossover of close to 40 MPs that caused the collapse of the PH administration in late February.

The political developments in Sabah have prompted a conversation in Malaysia about party-hopping and defections of elected representatives, with several MPs forming a bipartisan caucus to discuss ways to stymie party-hopping.

Sabah has 73 state assembly seats up for grabs, and will see the first major political battle between PH parties and PN parties since the change of federal government.

The lead-up to the election has proven to be a tumultuous one for PN parties, with internal conflicts within Sabah Barisan Nasional weakening BN's decision to let its state chapter chairman Bung Mokhtar Radin lead the election campaign and also be allowed to decide on a chief minister candidate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2020, with the headline 'High Court quashes legal challenge against Sabah assembly dissolution'. Print Edition | Subscribe