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Critical Points of Contention

23 May 2024

1. Omission of Context for "Busybody" Remark

The article omits critical context regarding the State appointed counsel's use of the term "busybody" in reference to SLS. This term was used disparagingly, implying that SLS was unnecessarily involving itself in the matter. This remark has been perceived as unprofessional and dismissive of SLS’s legitimate legal efforts to advocate for Sabah’s financial rights. By omitting this context, the article fails to address the contentious and disrespectful nature of the State appointed counsel's remark.

2. Inappropriate Arguments by State appointed counsel

The State appointed counsel made several arguments that are traditionally the responsibility of the Federal Attorney General’s Chambers. His submission that the 40% special grant is merely aspirational and not an absolute right directly contradicts the official stance of the Sabah government. Ordinarily, the State counsel should advocate in favour of the State’s position, not undermine it by aligning more closely with federal viewpoints. This misalignment raises questions about the motives and coordination within the State’s legal strategy.

3. Contradictory Stand on Special Grant

The State appointed counsel's submission that the 40% entitlement is aspirational rather than a legal right is particularly damaging. In ordinary meaning, "aspirational" means a strong desire for something only. This interpretation conflicts with the State government's official position, as reiterated by both Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Hajiji Noor and State Attorney General Datuk Nor Asiah Mohd Yusof. They have asserted that the 40% grant is a constitutional right, and the State is entitled to compensation for the "lost years" from 1974 onwards. The use of "aspirational" in this context undermines the State's case by suggesting that the entitlement is not guaranteed by law.

4. State Government’s Stand and Legal Strategy

The State government's official filings initially sought to have SLS's leave for judicial review dismissed. However, at the last minute, this position was abandoned without informing SLS and thus taking SLS by surprise. Instead, the State sought to intervene in the appeal without clarifying its stance on the substantive issues of locus standi and justiciability. This abrupt change in strategy without coordination with SLS has sown confusion and weakened the State's legal position. It appears disorganized and contradictory, failing to present a united front in pursuing Sabah’s financial rights.

Respect for Public Interest Litigation

SLS’s efforts represent a significant public interest litigation, aiming to uphold Sabah’s constitutional rights. The State government should support, rather than undermine, these efforts to maintain public trust and unity in pursuing fair financial entitlements.

The legal battle over Sabah's 40% grant revenue is not just a legal matter but a significant political and public interest issue. The State government must adopt a cohesive and transparent approach, ensuring that all actions taken are in line with its official stance and the aspirations of the people of Sabah.

Former Sabah Law Society President

Datuk Roger Chin


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