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No limit to TYT's term
Published on: Friday, December 14, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: The State Legislative Assembly in a special sitting, Thursday, passed an Enactment to amend the State Constitution to do away with the current two term restriction on the Yang di-Pertua Negeri. On a roll-call vote, the Bill was passed after 45 assembly members voted in support of the amendment, while 15 were against on the second and third reading.

A day after leaving Sabah Umno en bloc, five of its assemblymen voted against the proposed constitutional amendment to lift the limit on a governor's term.

Masidi, Datuk Hajiji Noor (Sulaman - Independent) and Datuk Mohd Ariffin Arif (Membakut - Independent) were not present for the voting.

The State Constitution is amended in Article 2, by deleting clause 3. The Bill will not involve the State Government in any extra financial expenditure.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, when tabling the Bill, said clause 3 of Article 2 was originally repealed through amendments made in 1987 to limit the duration of a person who holds the position of Head of State to two terms only.

He said the original provision of the State Constitution under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 has no provision in respect of clause 3.

"Therefore, the amendment to the State Constitution is to restore the original provisions of Article 2 of the Constitution as set out in the Malaysia Agreement 1963," he said.

In a lengthy winding up speech, Shafie said the Yang di-Pertua Negeri institution is a symbol of importance to the State, a ceremonial Head of State of Sabah.

He also said the amendment had no relation to any negotiation between him and current Head of State.

Shafie, who is Parti Warisan Sabah president, said that his appointment as Chief Minister on May 10 happened not because of any private deals with the TYT but because he commanded the majority of the house.

"I don't want any question to surface about this. My appointment was made based on the majority, not because there were any deals, nor was it solely the TYT's decision," he told the house, adding that the authorities had stopped him from going to the Istana Negeri for his swearing-in. The TYT was not happy with this," he added.

He also pointed out that it is important to appoint a Head of State based not on the duration or race, but on the quality and ability to execute responsibility.

He said this following a suggestion by several assemblymen that if the Chief Minister post was held by a Muslim bumiputera, then the Yang di-Pertua Negeri post should be held by a non-Muslim bumiputera.

"The thinking of the younger generation is no longer based on race and religion, it is based on performance merit, we have to re-evaluate, what is the point of putting someone from our race or religion in that position if they cannot develop the State or if the image of the State is not good. Thus, we have to make changes," he said.

He said previously during State Cabinet meetings every Wednesday, the chief minister will meet the Yang di-Pertua Negeri to explain what matters will be discussed.

"Now, I present the Cabinet papers to the Yang di-Pertua Negeri for him to read the contents because he is the Head of State and he must know what is the policy in the current government, thus as a new government, we have evaluate in detail, not only in terms of education qualification but also in practices and how they carry themselves.

"We cannot compare the Yang di-Pertua Negeri to civil servants, because as Yang di-Pertua Negeri they have non-executive powers, they are not elected," he said, adding that the amendment also doesn't mean that the position as Head of State will be held permanently.

"Why should we limit the terms for the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, what is the basis to this? Is it because you want your people to be there, or because you want somebody who can say 'yes' and 'no' to you?" he asked.

Meanwhile, 13 assemblyman debated the Bill, among them was Tambunan Assemblyman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan who pointed out that the timing of the amendment was rather inappropriate.

He appeared to imply that it had connection with something saying "If the timing was next year, perhaps the environment would be different, the timing now is not appropriate since it can be wrongly interpreted."

Earlier, Dr Jeffrey called to reinstate the title Yang di-Pertua Negeri to Yang di-Pertua Negara during the early formation of Malaysia, adding that amendment to the Bill was also not urgent as it does not benefit the State and her people.

To which Shafie said the question raised by Tambunan Assemblyman seemed as if he (Dr Jeffrey) was making an interpretation that the amendment was done because of something.

"It is not based on that, it is based on evaluation who is the right leader to take the position and this matter I didn't do alone. I discussed at length, the proposal comes from the Chief Minister and the one who will receive the proposal is the Prime Minister and the one to decide is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

"Perhaps the timing is a coincidence, but this is the right time for us to do changes, even if it is to extend or not to extend. It doesn't mean that those holding the position will be there permanently, we will ensure that whoever the Yang di-Pertua Negeri is, it must be based on the people's voice," he said.

Kemabong assemblyman Jamawi Jaafar said deleting the clause was a step further in reinstating state rights according to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), and in strengthening the Istana Negeri institution.

"If we keep having former TYTs, the state would need to pay for their retirement fee and they still enjoy the same benefits as they were when they were the TYT," he said.

Paginatan assemblyman Datuk Abidin Madingkir (Upko) said the amendment to the constitution refers back to the original MA63 which did not limit the term of a TYT.

"This is to get back what is written under MA63," he said, adding he also agrees with Jamawi that the move would help the government reduce expenditure.

Kiulu assemblyman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai (PBS) however argued that there was no reason or purpose in lifting the term limits of the TYT.

"In Sabah, we celebrate diversity and there are also people of other races waiting and wanting to see a representative from their own race be in such a position of power," he said.

Sabah STAR's Dr Jeffrey also said that in the earlier MA63 clauses, it was agreed that if a TYT was a Muslim, a chief minister has to be non-Muslim and vice versa.

"So do you agree with this?" he said.

To this, Abidin said the such matters needed to be checked to see if they contradicted the Federal Constitution.

Karanaan assemblyman Datuk Masidi Manjun (Independent) said he felt that it was shameful that anyone would take the issue of the state budget and the TYT's pension to debate this matter.

"A former TYT gets only about RM2,000 a month, and this is such a small amount. We as representatives get more, so I am ashamed that we are even talking about the pension," he said.

Masidi said what was important what to have a reliable and capable person to sit in the TYT's seat.

Kuamut assemblyman Datuk Masiung Banah said he sees that the post of a TYT is politically linked.

"Every time after a government changes, we see that the TYT is blamed for having something to do with it; and every time something happens, the TYT of that time is blamed," he said in agreeing to the proposed amendments. - Sherell Jeffrey



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