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Big Day for Sabah tomorrow

KOTA KINABALU (Aug 16): Sabah is set to hog the limelight tomorrow.

Public attention will be on the state as two events play out, both pertaining to the upcoming state election.

In the morning, the Kota Kinabalu High Court is to determine whether the decision of the Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negeri to dissolve the State Legislative Assembly on July 30 is justiciable, meaning whether it is subject to trial in a court of law.

In the afternoon, the Election Commission (EC) is scheduled to convene a special meeting to set the dates for the state election.

At the High Court, before Judicial Commissioner Leonard David Shim, will be an application for leave for judicial review of the decision by Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin to dissolve the state assembly.

Shim had postponed the matter to tomorrow to determine justiciability after it was brought before the court on Aug 7 by Tengku Fuad Ahmad, counsel for former chief minister and Sungai Sibuga assemblyman Tan Sri Musa Aman and 32 other state assemblymen.

The 33 elected representatives claimed on July 29 that they made up the majority in the state assembly and wanted Tun Juhar to swear in a new government, thus toppling the state government of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.

Mohd Shafie, who is Semporna member of Parliament and assemblyman for Senallang, pre-empted Musa's move by advising Tun Juhar to dissolve the state assembly which had 65 members at that time — 60 elected and five nominated.

In their application for leave for judicial review, Musa and the assemblymen backing him are seeking court orders to quash Mohd Shafie's request for Tun Juhar to dissolve the assembly; to quash the proclamation of the dissolution of the assembly; and to quash the Sabah state government gazette notification on the dissolution.

They named Tun Juhar as the first respondent; Mohd Shafie as the second; the EC as the third; and the Sabah government as the fourth.

The court action came in the wake of the failure of Musa and the 32 other assemblymen to seek an audience with Tun Juhar. A convoy of cars of the assemblymen heading to Istana Negeri found the road leading to the palace blocked by the authorities.

Abinan Asli, the private secretary to the Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negeri, said on Aug 6 that the palace never received any official or unofficial request from Musa for an audience with Tun Juhar.

He also said that the palace had never instructed the police to stop the convoy as the roadblock was set up as a precaution against untoward incidents following the dissolution of the assembly.

The palace also refuted an allegation by a non-governmental organisation that Tun Juhar had abused his power and accepted an inducement in dissolving the state assembly.

The dissolution of the state assembly leaves the EC with 60 days to hold a state election.

Tomorrow's special meeting of the EC is scheduled for 2.30pm at the Magellan Sutera Resort here. EC deputy chairman Dr Azmi Sharom will chair the meeting and hold a press conference at 4pm.

He is expected to announce the important dates of the election, namely for the writ of election, nomination, and polling. He is also expected to announce the electoral rolls to be used for the election as well as other preparations, taking into consideration the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

The EC had the experience of holding the Chini state by-election in Pahang on July 4 during the ongoing Covid-19 Recovery Movement Control Order period slated to end on Aug 31. It is in the process of conducting the Slim state by-election in Perak, polling for which is on Aug 29.

The Sabah state election will see 73 seats up for contest, 13 more than the 60 in the last state assembly following a Dewan Rakyat approval last year for the additional seats.

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