Sabah’s Untold History

The Palace Coup (Part 1)
By Hakim Joe, Monday, 31 August 2009, Malaysia Today

Many Malaysians may not know this but the Perak Fiasco this year is not the second constitutional crisis that has rocked Malaysia (after the UMNO crisis). In fact, UMNO’s deregistration as an association by the Registrar of Societies in 1987 was also not Malaysia’s first constitutional crisis but the second.

The dubious award of Malaysia’s first ever constitutional crisis was bestowed on the Sabahan State Government in 1985 when the Berjaya-appointee Sabahan Governor, Tun Haji Mohd Adnan Robert, despite stern objections from his advisors including the Sabah State Attorney Datuk Nicholas Fung and Sabah High Court judge, Justice Datuk Charles Ho, had decided to swear-in a minority coalition party leader as the Chief Minister of Sabah, a coalition that had won less state seats (22 seats combined) in the just completed State Elections than the victor (26 seats), an action that contravened the State Constitution and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

So, what happened during the early dawn hours of 22 April 1985 that eventually propelled the State of Sabah into total chaos? An action by one single man in his capacity as the Governor? Or was he somehow “persuaded” (against all logical reasons) by Datuk Haji Yahya Lampong and the inaction of others present (except for Nicholas Fung and Charles Ho) to continue with the swearing-in ceremony? Before you continue reading, always keep this in mind. A Sultan or a State Governor can appoint a Menteri Besar or a Chief Minister but he cannot dismiss him after swearing him in. The appointed MB or CM can only be dismissed in the State Legislature by a vote of no-confidence, if he is convicted of a crime or if he dies in office.

Once again, let us start from the beginning.

Sabah held its state elections on 21 April 1985, a wide open contest between three political parties, namely Berjaya (BN component party and incumbent state government) led by CM Datuk Harris Mohd Salleh, USNO (previous BN component party and state government) led by Tun Datu Haji Mustapha Datu Harun, and the recently formed, months-old, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), led by Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan (former Berjaya Vice President).

By 11pm on Election Day, it was evident that Berjaya had lost the Sabah state elections. CM Harris had in fact lost his seat in his Tenom constituency. The only Berjaya candidates that survived the backlash were the Speaker of the State Assembly, Tan Sri Haji Sunoh Marso, two deputy ministers, Haji Malek Chua and Hiew Ming Kong, plus three others.

Celebrations were however held at the USNO camp. At almost 1am on 22 April 1985, when USNO and PBS had jointly won 25 seats (simple majority), USNO’s director of elections, Haji Karim Ghani called Pairin’s residence to implement the secret plan between USNO and PBS to form a coalition state government, a plan hatched between Pairin and Mustapha to unseat Berjaya prior to the elections. The telephone call was answered by Pairin’s PBS legal advisor, Datuk Herman Luping, who told Haji Karim that “he will get back to him after speaking to Pairin”, a call that was never returned as PBS continued to win one constituency after another. Treachery? Well, nobody said that politics was clean. The initial pact was made at a time when neither USNO nor PBS thought that their respective party could win the Sabahan elections alone.

It was not until later when the return call never came that Mustapha realized that Pairin had double-crossed him. Moral of the story so far – never trust your political opponents.

It was also then that the State Attorney General Datuk Haji Yusuf Rashid, mentioned to Datuk Haji Yahya Lampong that USNO’s 16 seats plus Berjaya’s 6 seats (a total of 22 seats) were sufficient to form the State Government, provided that the Governor grant the 6 nominated seats to them. (The Sabah Governor has the privilege to do so as the Sabahan Legislature consists of 48 contested seats and 6 nominated seats.)

A call (at 2am) was hastily made to the USNO camp for a meeting between the two leaders. At 2.30am, Karim called Datuk Haji Majid Khan (Berjaya’s elections director) to confirm the meeting at Tun Mustapha’s residence. Majid and Abdul Malek Chua arrived about 15 minutes later and were taken to meet Mustapha. In the meeting, Mustapha was skeptical about this “plan of action” that could unseat PBS but a subsequent telephone call from the Istana “inviting Tun Mustapha to take the oath of Sabah CM” banished all doubts from the USNO President’s mind.

Why did the Governor do it knowing very well that PBS had won 26 seats to Berjaya’s 6 seats and USNO’s 16 seats? Events soon unfolded that Harris had called the Governor after receiving the call from USNO at 2am, informing him that Berjaya has formed a coalition with USNO and that their combined total of 22 seats plus the 6 nominated seats (by the Governor) constitutes a simple majority win in the 54-seat Sabah Assembly. It was then that instructions were given to Adnan’s ADC, Haji Mandalam Marziman, to prepare for the swearing-in ceremony in the wee hours of the night (or is it day?). It was also then that Madalam received a call from the PBS legal advisor, Datuk Herman Luping, as to whom he would need to contact to organize the formal swearing-in ceremony for Pairin as the CM of Sabah.

Mandalam then proceeded to contact the Governor’s private secretary, Sukarti Wakiman, to inform him of Adnan’s decision and to contact the Protocol Officer, Ahmad Jalil, to prepare the arrangements for the ceremony. Ahmad Jalil was already at his office and called the Secretary to the Cabinet, Richard Ngui Thien Soong, to bring all the Instruments of Appointment and Oath of Office to the Istana. It was also then that Ahmad Jalil called Mustapha’s residence to inform him of Adnan’s decision and to invite him to the Istana. The time was almost 2.45am now. By then Harris had already dispatched Nicholas Fung and the State Secretary, Hamid Egoh, to the Istana to help out with the arrangements for the ceremony.

When Richard Ngui arrived at the Istana, he told Ahmad Jalil that the Instrument of Appointment and Oath of Office already had Datuk Harris’s name on it (optimistically never expecting Berjaya’s humiliating defeat) and that Jalil should just blanko off the Harris’ name and retype Tun Mustapha’s name on it. It was now that the Sabah State Attorney Nicholas Fung pointed out to Adnan that PBS was the victor and that it was unconstitutional for Adnan to swear in Mustapha, to which the Governor interjected that he knew “what he was doing”.

By then, the guests were all arriving at the Istana and these included Mustapha, Yahya Lampong, Majid Khan, Malek Chua and the Commissioner of Police, Mohd Noor Khamis. When Nicholas Fung saw Yahya and Majid, he once again strongly reiterated that it was unconstitutional for Adnan to appoint Mustapha as the CM. It was then pointed out by Yahya that under Articles 6(3) and 10(2) of the State Constitution that Adnan has the discretion to appoint a member of the Assembly so long as he is satisfied that the member is likely to command the confidence of the majority of Assembly members. Nicholas Fung was not easily cowed and warned of the dire consequences if the swearing-in ceremony was permitted to go ahead, but to no avail. It was then that Adnan asked if Kuala Lumpur had been consulted of his decision to which Majid replied that Harris was trying to get in touch with Musa Hitam (the acting PM as Mahathir was in London). It was also then that Adnan asked if a judge was necessary to which High Court judge, Justice Charles Ho was immediately called up on the phone to attend the ceremony at the Istana.

Harris managed to contact acting PM, Musa Hitam at around 3.40am, and informed him of the Berjaya loss and the subsequent proposal to form a coalition party with USNO. Harris also told the acting PM that Adnan had decided to appoint Mustapha as the CM to which Musa said, “Datuk, give me a few hours.” Musa was of course naturally apprehensive over the events happening in Sabah as it might create a law and order situation of which the Federal Government had no intention of sticking their head into. After all, Musa might be the acting PM but he was the Home Minister. Pairin might not be able to contact Musa but he finally got through to the Federal Attorney General, Tan Sri Abu Talib of which he explained the situation. Abu Talib then advised Pairin to take legal action against Adnan if the latter had already sworn-in Mustapha because the Federal Attorney General and the Governor possess no power to dismiss the CM once he is sworn-in.

When Justice Charles Ho arrived at the Istana, he was briefed by Nicholas Fung and Hamid Egoh as of the situation to which the Judge told the Governor that it was unconstitutional, that the judiciary did not want to get involved in this illegal event and that who was willing to take the blame if there was any bloodshed? Charles Ho then proceeded to tell Tun Adnan that he wanted nothing to do with this decision and that he was going home. Nicholas Fung left with Charles Ho. Adnan told Hamid Egoh to proceed with the ceremony. It was almost 4am. Moral of story so far, listen to what your subordinates have to tell you.

It was about this time that Kota Kinabalu police chief, OCPD Supt. Victor Lim got a call on his walkie-talkie that Harris and Mustapha were present at the Istana for the swearing-in ceremony. He immediately alerted Pairin and Luping. Luping immediately tried to contact Sukarti at the Istana but was told by Mandalam that Sukarti was not available. Luping then drove to Hamid Egoh’s house but the latter was already at the Istana. It was then that Luping (and a group of PBS supporters) drove to the Istana but found themselves barred from entering. Pairin was kept informed of the worsening situation and he decided to call Musa Hitam, of which he failed to contact at his home. (Musa was in fact at Bukit Aman monitoring the Sabah situation.)

When Hamid Egoh was resting after the swearing-in ceremony, he received a call from Abu Talib, demanding to know what was happening in Sabah. After a lengthy argument, Hamid Egoh told Abu Talib that Mustapha had already been sworn in as the 7th CM of Sabah.

Pairin finally managed to contact his good friend, Musa at about 6.30am. Musa reassured Pairin that they were doing everything to defuse the tense situation and that the Federal Government had to uphold the system of parliamentary democracy and that they will respect the wishes of the people of Sabah. Pairin then instructed his legal team to prepare two letters to Adnan, the first emphasizing that PBS had won the elections and therefore the right to form the state government, and the second as a warning to Adnan that unless he dismisses Mustapha, legal action will be taken against him.

It was at about 9am that Pairin managed to contact Hamid Egoh at the State Secretariat. After properly lambasting the State Secretary for allowing the illegal swearing-in of Mustapha as the CM (probably left, right and centre), Pairin asked Hamid if he still had the power and authority as a State Secretary to set up a meeting with Adnan. Hamid immediately contacted Sukarti, instructing him to make an appointment for Pairin to meet with Adnan. 15 minutes later, Sukarti called Hamid to tell him that Adnan would see Pairin at noon. Hamid conveyed the news to Pairin, who immediately agreed.

Adnan however changed his mind and cancelled the meeting at the last minute. He got his personal secretary to inform Hamid Egoh that he was busy and tired and that Hamid should relay this news to Pairin. When Pairin heard about this snub, he had to move fast lest his supporters start a riot. 

Adnan however had an early visitor in the form of KK OCPD, Supt Victor Lim who proceeded to hand over the two letters from Pairin’s legal advisors. This was the first time that Adnan heard (from Supt Victor Lim) that Kuala Lumpur was not pleased with his actions. It was also at this time that Herman Luping turned up at the Istana gates to seek an interview with the Governor with regards to Pairin’s swearing-in ceremony. Of course Adnan refused to see him and asked Supt Victor Lim to convey to Herman that they should deal with the “new” CM and not him.

Kota Kinabalu streets were now completely deserted after Mustapha had announced over the radio that the people of Sabah should not be apprehensive and unduly alarmed over his appointment as CM. Mustapha had also instructed the Press Secretary, Fauzi Patel, to draft a similar statement for Adnan’s private secretary, to be issued by the Istana confirming the Governor’s decision to appoint him as the CM. Fauzi Patel of course had to have this statement confirmed by Hamid but was told to clear it with Nicholas Fung. Nicholas, on the other hand, refused to have anything to do with it as he had no intentions of working for Mustapha and was planning to resign the position of the Sabah State Attorney. A further attempt by Hamid to send the draft to Fung through the Secretary of the Cabinet, Ngui, proved to be equally futile. Hamid was therefore left with no other choice but to vet the statement himself. He then asked Sukarti to forward a copy each to be forwarded to the Information Department, RTM and Bernama.

To highlight the incredulity of the people of Sabah, even the press division of the internal Information Department withheld the release of this statement. Department Head, Justine Miol had to personally go to see Hamid Egoh to confirm its authenticity as he could not believe what he had just read.

At about noon, RTM began relaying Musa’s statement on the Sabah Elections, “The Sabah Election is now over and the people have already made their choice. To the winners, I congratulate them. However, I would like to appeal to all parties, especially those who lost, to respect the wishes of the majority of the people. For we in the Federal Government will also continue to respect the wishes of the majority, based on the system of parliamentary democracy which we hold in high esteem…The Federal Government will continue to ensure that the security situation is under control. In this connection, I would like to remind any group planning to take action which could threaten the security that the Government would not hesitate to take firm actions against them.”

About an hour later, Musa came up with another statement, “I would also like to take this opportunity to explain the Barisan Nasional’s stand in connection with the developments in Sabah after the elections that have just ended…I would like to inform that at 3.40am yesterday, Datuk Harris Salleh had asked my permission that Berjaya under his leadership join USNO to form the new State Government of Sabah. I explained to Datuk Harris that I could not give him the permission as I have to consider…” Moral of the story so far, have high ranking pals in the Federal Government.

The shit had just (literally) hit the fan. This was the second indication (the first was from Supt Victor Lim to Adnan) that the Federal Government had not viewed favorably the turn of events at the Istana, but this was official while Supt Victor’s words were merely unconfirmed hearsay. 

Adnan was jolted to the hilt when he heard the statements made by acting PM Datuk Musa Hitam. First was the threat by Musa to take firm actions against anyone who threatened the security of the State (which he did when he made Tun Mustapha the CM subverting the Constitution) and the second was Musa’s disassociation of BN from any actions partaken by the Governor and Berjaya after the elections (meaning that he would not be obtaining any help from Kuala Lumpur). The meeting that Pairin had so far failed to get (with him) suddenly gained prime importance. Hamid was contacted to immediately set up the meeting at 2.30pm “alone with Datuk Pairin”, insisted Adnan.

Despite conveying the message to Pairin that the Governor wanted to see him alone, ten full carloads of supporters (together with Nicholas Fung) accompanied Pairin to the Istana. Pairin arrived early at the Istana (2pm) and was immediately brought to meet Adnan. It was here, less then 24 hours before, that Mustapha was appointed and sworn-in as the new CM and it was here now that Adnan is conspiring with Pairin to bring about the revocation of the appointment (together with Nicholas Fung and Hamid Igoh). Abu Talib was contacted to give his advice and the Federal Attorney General reiterated that Mustapha cannot be dismissed (Kalong Ningkan case) but recommended them to talk to Mustapha urging him to resign on his own accord.

Herein lies the problem. How could they urge Mustapha to resign when they had appointed him less than 24 hours ago? Yacob Marican was fished in to assist and he recommended using Razak Rouse (USNO legal advisor) as the conduit because of the latter’s close friendship with Tun Mustapha. Razak was invited to join the group at the Istana but dreaded the responsibility once it was impressed upon him the full nature of the business at hand. Meanwhile, an official letter was drafted to Mustapha revoking (not dismissing) his position as the CM of Sabah. This letter was then handed to Sukarti, who gave it to Jalil to personally deliver it to Mustapha. Meanwhile preparations were made for the “second” swearing-in ceremony of the day.

This time, RTM and the State Information Department were called in to record the ceremony. There were only four guests at the ceremony (Hamid Egoh, Nicholas Fung, Victor Lim and Charles Ho). It was then that Justice Charles Ho contemplated the evident fact that Adnan’s decision to proceed with Pairin’s appointment as CM without first obtaining Mustapha’s resignation would complicate matters even more. RTM broadcasted the ceremony nationwide later in the evening. On Mahathir’s return to Malaysia, he openly backed what Musa had done to defuse the situation in Sabah.

While the uproar was still at the height of the controversial event, Pairin sprung another surprise by announcing that he had included 3 (out of the 6 nominated members) into his cabinet, namely Bernard Dompok, Nahalan Haji Damsal and Puan Ariah Tengku Ahmad to represent the Malay interests in the state. 3 Kadazans to represent the Malay interest (even though two of them were Muslims)? USNO in the meantime had beseeched Pairin to honor the election pact to form a coalition government but was told in the State Assembly (20 May 1985) that “PBS was perfectly capable of representing the Muslim interest and therefore a coalition with USNO would have served no purpose.” It was then that Yahya Lampong challenged Pairin’s position as CM stating the fact that as Mustapha had never resigned from that post after being appointed by Adnan and since Adnan did not have the power to dismiss Mustapha, Pairin’s subsequent appointment was ipso facto unconstitutional. This revelation shocked many PBS MPs as not all of them knew what really happened on the 22nd of April between the Governor and their party leader. Yahya proceeded to lead all USNO MPs out of the Assembly.

On 22 May 1985, USNO lawyers filed a writ at the KK High Court seeking to declare Tun Mustapha as the rightful CM of Sabah and that the revocation was unconstitutional, null and void; that the Governor’s appointment of Pairin was unconstitutional, null and void; that the Governor has acted unconstitutionally in appointing the State Cabinet; and that all acts and things done by Pairin in the capacity of CM were null and void.

Joseph Kurup (PBS Secretary-General) retorted by threatening to initiate procedures to dismiss all USNO members for their walkout in the May 20th Assembly session. The stakes are now well and truly raised. Whatever that had possessed Adnan to make the decision to appoint Mustapha took on a new dimension when a bomb exploded in the Segama complex the following day. The second bomb exploded on 29 May. This was to be the onset of a series of bombings in Sabah.

To offset the USNO writ, Pairin announced that the Legislative Assembly will meet on May 30th to pass a vote of confidence on his position as the CM. USNO countered this move by applying to the High Court on May 27th for an injunction to stop Pairin from proceeding with the session but to no avail as the application was rejected because the High Court was of the view that they did not have the jurisdiction to interfere with Assembly proceedings. (How much has changed leading to the Perak Fiasco.)

On May 30th, Pairin easily won the vote of confidence. Capitalizing on this victory, Pairin continued his attack on USNO, branding them as conspirators in a coup to snatch power from those who had legally won in the elections. Later, in his defense of the USNO writ, Pairin claimed that Mustapha had conspired with Harris to illegally install Mustapha as the CM and that their attempt to seize power by fraudulent means had been motivated by their desire to prevent the previous government’s financial and administrative misdeeds from being exposed.

On June 4th, the third bomb went off at Tanjong Aru, recording the first fatality. Moral of the story so far, get away from places where bombs are likely to be detonated and never compound one mistake with another (to cover the first one).

To preempt the hearing of the USNO writ, Pairin once again called an emergency session of the Assembly, this time to express its confidence in Adnan’s appointment of Pairin as the CM. USNO members once again boycotted this session as they deemed Pairin’s administration to be illegal and proceeded to lodge a police report to the effect that the vote of confidence constituted a contempt of the court. Here is where the shit really hit the fan. In moving the motion, Mark Koding (Pairin’s deputy) said that Adnan was forced and coerced to appoint Mustapha as the CM.
The court battle begins (to be continued).

The Palace Coup (Part 2)
By Hakim Joe, Tuesday, 01 September 2009, Malaysia Today

[Read Part 1 at The Palace Coup (Part 1)]

There is no such thing as either a “good” law or a “bad” law. As with all laws, they are required to be tabled and read in Parliament and it is these Parliamentarians (or lawmakers) that hold the key as to having the law to be approved, amended or repealed.  

Read this part carefully as it was a precedent-setting case just like the Kalong Ningkan case. However, it can only be signified as a constitutional landmark “if the jurist act in accordance to the law of the land” and not misinterpret it to suit themselves (or their political masters) or the will of the people.

The fact remains that Pairin could have sought a vote of confidence in the Sabah Legislative Assembly against Mustapha instead of insisting Adnan to swear him in as the CM. An error was already done when Adnan swore Mustapha in as the CM despite knowing the fact that the combined USNO-Berjaya seats were less than that of PBS. To swear Pairin in without first obtaining a resignation from Mustapha, and to revoke the initial appointment was in fact another error in judgment. There are no laws in Malaysia that allows for a Sultan or Governor to dismiss, discharge or revoke the status of a CM in office. Additionally, there are no laws that allow the Judiciary to interfere with the Legislative Assembly proceedings let alone either declare or dismiss a CM in office, and until the Perak Fiasco, these constitutional rights were treated as sacrosanct (well, maybe not in this case either…)

In the Mustapha/USNO writ against Pairin/Adnan, it is the contention that the initial appointment of Mustapha as the CM of Sabah by the Governor (Tun Adnan) supercedes all later appointments. Additionally, a CM can only be ousted from the Assembly through a successful no-confidence vote against him at the State Assembly, and not through a dismissal or revocation by the Governor and since no such vote was ever held in the Sabah State Legislature and that the revocation order is null and void, it must therefore follow that Tun Mustapha is still the legally appointed CM of Sabah.

Pairin’s legal counsels (Luping and Puthucheary) argued that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to interfere with the Legislative Assembly proceedings and that the writ should be rejected because the issue at hand was not justiciable. Additionally, the Sabah State Legislature had successfully held a vote of confidence on May 30th and that Pairin, as the leader of the winner in the state elections & duly being appointed as CM by the Governor, should not have to be answerable to this writ and the added fact that the initial appointment was made under duress after the Governor was coerced by Harris and Mustapha to appoint the latter as the CM.

The learned High Court Judge, Justice Datuk Tan Chiaw Tong, however found that the issue was not who had won the recent state elections or what went on in the Sabah State Legislature, but whether the initial appointment of Tun Mustapha was legal or not, henceforth making the matter judiciable in the determination of the rightful CM. Pairin/Adnan were then asked to prepare their defense.

Not agreeing with the High Court verdict, Pairin’s legal counsels appealed to the Supreme Court for final judgment. On 21 October 1985, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by Pairin and upheld Justice Tan’s ruling on the matter of jurisdiction. Acting Lord President, Justice Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Omar together with Justice Tan Sri Hashim Yeop Sani and Justice Tan Sri Eusoffee Abdoolcader stated that the central issue of the matter was the validity of the initial appointment of Mustapha as CM, and since the appellants spoke of “duress and coercion” that had led to the appointment of Mustapha, “it is therefore imperative that the court examine the allegations in order to determine the lawfulness of the initial appointment and whether Tun Adnan was impaired as a result of exercising his discretion in making the appointment.”

The crafty Pairin while awaiting for the case to begin, once again called for an emergency session of the Assembly for the amending of the State Constitution, this time specifying the Governor’s powers on the appointment of a CM and to make these amendments effective on the 22 April 1985, so that through this device of constitutional amendment, Adnan’s dismissal of Mustapha and subsequent appointment of Pairin would ipso facto be legalized. Yet another amendment is to forbid assembly members from joining another political party with the consequences being their contested seat automatically falls vacant if they do. (DSAI should be able to learn a thing or two from this episode.)

USNO’s response to these maneuvers was to apply to the KK High Court to restrain Adnan from assenting to any Bills passed by the Legislature until the court has decided on the issues raised in the writ.

To be able to amend the State Constitution, one requires a two-third majority voting for change (which is why it is so damned important that a government should not possess such a majority) and not a simple majority. When Pairin initiated the amendments to the Sabah State Constitution, he only had 32 (26 plus 6) out of the 54 available votes which amounted to 59.2%. He in fact needed a minimum of 36 votes in his favor to be able to do anything, which he thought he obtained by enticing 5 USNO and Berjaya politicians to join PBS. (He would have 37 votes.)

On 28 October 1985, Tun Adnan’s invitation (parliamentary privilege) to speak at the Assembly kick started the Sabah State Legislature session. Pairin even had the cojones to ceremoniously hand over the prepared PBS text to him in the open. Mustapha (attending the Assembly for the first time since the elections) did not have to wait long to know its contents. Adnan began by informing the Assembly that the people had made it amply clear as to which particular political party they had preferred to form the State Government. Then came the tirade which included the usage of terminologies like “evil forces”, “exploitation”, “disrespect”, “interference” and “manipulation”. Adnan finished his “prepared” speech by confirming the appointment of Pairin as the CM and that he wants to “make it absolutely clear that” he “does not recognize any other as CM apart from Datuk Pairin.” Having delivered his speech, Adnan fled the stunned Assembly.

While Adnan was making his fast getaway through the exit doors, the Clerk of the Legislative Council, Francis Yap rushed to Pairin informing him that he did not have the two-thirds majority of votes he required to amend the State Constitution because he only had 35 (64.8%) votes and that Ghapur and Gatuk were absent. Yap then advised Pairin to withdraw the Constitutional Amendment Bill which he consented to a doubly stunned Assembly. While this was all happening, Bernard Dompok rose to move yet another resolution, this time seeking disqualification of Mustapha, Yahya and Piting from their Assembly membership for being absent from three consecutive Assemblies without permission.

The Assembly was now triply stunned when the Speaker stopped Dompok from moving the resolution, stating that he had in fact given official leave of absence to the three USNO members. This Dompok and Pairin flatly refused to accept because it was claimed that it was the Speaker himself that has confirmed that the three USNO members had remained absent without permission. Moral of story so far, do not trust your political opponents, do not trust the frogs and do not trust (especially) your own party members.

If Pairin thought that he had enough worries for the day, he was sorely wrong. Adnan reached the Istana to find an injunction (from Mustapha) waiting for him, barring him from assenting to any Bill(s) passed by the Assembly. If Pairin thought that he had enough worries for the month, he was sorely wrong. While he was in KL, USNO and Berjaya submitted four pre-signed resignation letters to the Speaker who immediately declared their seats vacant. The four were Ahmad Baharom Titingan, Saman Ghulam, PK Lau and Othman Yassin, the same three USNO/Berjaya members that had crossed over to PBS (plus one who had promised to cross over.) PBS quickly submitted an injunction to stop the by-elections but was rejected by the court even after the four had stated that they did not resign from office. (Different scenario from what finally eventuated in Perak.) The EC fast tracked this issue and by the time the by-elections were over, USNO had successfully retained two of the four vacancies. Berjaya lost the other two seats to PBS.

On 18 November, the Mustapha vs. Pairin case resumed in court. This time Pairin and Adnan were represented by Anthony Paul Lester QC, and new facts were added from the defense whereby Adnan had been subjected to undue outside influence when he appointed Mustapha as the CM (against his will) and that the Governor had feared for his life and those of his family members. (Wa-lan-nay! It’s good to have a good lawyer.) Lester went on to state that Adnan had felt “extremely frightened and insecure” when he agreed to proceed with the ceremony and that the “Mustapha’s coup” was unprecedented in the history of Malaysia. Furthermore, Mustapha had pressured Adnan into misusing the Governor’s constitutional powers to appoint him as CM rather than Pairin. The defense counsel contended that Mustapha and Harris had usurped the constitutional powers vested in the Governor and had forced him to appoint Mustapha, against his wishes.

Adnan played his part well as the first witness called by the defense, making certain that the inviolable office of the Head of State was being adjudicated here. How could a judge say that the Governor is lying? The only conflicting statement Adnan made was the police report he made on the April 22nd incident and that was not tendered as evidence because the report was safely locked away in the Attorney-General’s office vault. When Adnan was questioned by Kidwell QC (Mustapha’s legal counsel) as to why he had discussed the present case with Lester and Puthucheary (Pairin’s legal counsels) instead of the State Attorney, Adnan stated as a fact that Datuk Herman Luping was also present. This, Kidwell failed to grasp because the current State Attorney was Nicholas Fung and not Herman. If Kidwell had done his homework, that would have been obvious and Adnan’s testimony would be left wide open for Kidwell to systematically demolish.

Furthermore, when questioning the security at the Istana, Adnan stated as a fact that he did not trust Mandalam (his ADC and security chief) 100% but sympathize with him and retained him due to Mandalam’s large family. Further questioning revealed that none of the security personnel were transferred since the elections and that Adnan had retained all of them to facilitate the court. (Before the case was over, Adnan was to transfer them all when they refused to back him up in his evidence.) Kidwell proceeded to tear apart Adnan’s testimony (of being frightened for his life), asking him why he did not inform the Police Commissioner who was at his house or his good friend (Avtar Singh) a former police officer who was also at that time in the house with him (as a family guest), or even Supt Victor Lim (KK OCPD) who visited him the next morning.

Adnan also claimed that after Nicholas Fung had left with Justice Ho, he did not utter the words “Let’s go. Let’s swear-in Tun Mustapha” which was contradicted by Hamid Egoh, who in his evidence claimed to have distinctly remembered Adnan inviting all those present to attend the ceremony using exactly those same words.

Lester was however up to it and began by asking Adnan what the exact procedure was in conjunction to the swearing-in ceremony of a new CM. Adnan replied that there should be witnesses to this ceremony and protocol demands that a Judge, the State Secretary and the State Attorney be present at the ceremony in the witnesses area, which in fact was unoccupied owing to the fact that the ceremony was “faked” to get rid of Harris, Mustapha and their “wild” supporters. Additionally, he did not wear any songkok to the ceremony attesting to his claim that the ceremony was a fake one. Adnan also told the court that he was supposed to wear three songkoks and to read the “Doa Selamat” after the ceremony, which he did not.

Good rebuttal? Kidwell’s was even better and all he had to do was to show a videotape of Pairin’s swearing-in ceremony which showed that there were once again no witnesses at the area reserved for them (Hamid Egoh, Nicholas Fung, Victor Lim and Charles Ho were seated at the guests area) and that Adnan was not wearing a songkok, let alone three, and did not read the “Doa Selamat” after the ceremony. Earlier Adnan had answered Kidwell’s questioning of the songkok by stating that as far as he can remember, he did wear a songkok at Pairin’s swearing-in ceremony. Moral of the story so far, don’t lie in court. If you think that you are so clever that you can get away with a lie, remember that the blood-sucking no-good “sell their mother in a half a second” lawyers are far cleverer (and bloody sneaky and cunning to boot), especially those cocky Etonian-accented snobbish (but rich) English QCs.

Getting back to the story, it was therefore blatantly obvious (except to the blind) that Adnan’s concoction of what is suppose to pass as evidence was a flagrant fabrication put forward explicitly to give credence to his claim that the ceremony for Mustapha was a fake while that for Pairin was genuine.

On the question of duress, Adnan told the court that Yahya had given him a piece of paper threatening to remove him from “the face of the earth” if he did not go ahead with the ceremony to swear-in Mustapha. He persistently maintained that he had thus been placed in constant fear of USNO supporters intending to kill him. To this Kidwell (must be having fun) once again demolished Adnan’s testimony. (Lester must have been cringing every time Adnan opened his mouth.) The barrage of questioning got so bad that Adnan had to resort to “I don’t remember” and “I don’t know” to get through it. (Now we know who the “gua tak tahu(s)” learnt it from.) To shorten it, Adnan had to admit that he did not fully understand what was written on the piece of paper and that if he did, he would have informed Justice Ho and Hamid Egoh about the threat as written on the paper.

When Adnan was questioned whether he obtained the “green light from KL” before or after Justice Charles Ho arrived and before or after he got the note from Yahya, Adnan confidently said that he asked about the green light only after receiving the note from Yahya. Kidwell once again asked Adnan if he was certain about this, to which the answer was “Yes, I remember.” Kidwell proceeded to exhibit Adnan’s previous evidence and statement of defense whereby he attested that the piece of paper was given to him before Justice Ho’s arrival. Now, how was he going to tell Justice Ho (about the threat even if he understood it) when the jurist has not arrived? (in Semi-Value’s case, he would have uttered “Gua Tak Tahu”.)

When Adnan was asked about Datuk Musa’s broadcast, he vehemently denied hearing or reading a statement of it because he “did not know that there was a broadcast by Datuk Musa regarding the appointment of Tun Mustapha.” Even after Adnan’s counsel had intervened and conceded that Hamid Egoh did in fact pass a copy of the broadcast to Adnan, he stubbornly persisted in his delusions that he had not known anything about Musa’s statements. However, as the evidence started to mount against him, Adnan finally admitted that he had seen the copy of the broadcast but had not been duly concerned of its contents.

From the court proceedings, it was painfully evident to everyone and anyone attending the trial that Adnan had perjured himself in court with contradictions (of himself) and of events that had happened. Could this one man be correct whilst the rest of the witnesses were all wrong? Well, someone believed him and that someone was High Court Justice Datuk Tan, and that was all that really mattered, stating in his judgment that, “At the outset, I would state that I find these (defense) witnesses to be entirely honest, impartial and independent witnesses, who gave their respective evidence clearly and honestly. I accept them without any hesitation as witnesses of truth; and I accept their evidence. I have reached this conclusion from observing their demeanor in court while giving evidence, and after weighing their evidence against the rest of the evidence, particularly the evidence of the plaintiff’s witnesses Haji Mandalam bin Marziman, Constable Mohd Yunus bin Mohd Yasin and Constable Ali Hassan Muyong.” (What the…)

In other words, what the learned Judge was saying in his God-know-how-many-pages judgment is that he believed Tun Adnan 100% (regardless if he contradicted himself most of the time) and he believed the rest of the other witnesses (who contradicted Adnan) 0%. With this judgment (which was not released until April the 15th, 1986), Pairin was therefore the legal CM of Sabah. End of story. (Sounds like the Perak Fiasco case, right?) 

Well, almost the end of the story. The moral of it all is what the Federal Government wants, not what Adnan, Harris, Pairin, Mustapha or even Justice Tan wanted. Sure as Hell it didn’t care what the people wanted (even though it might have been exactly what the Sabahans wanted). 

On 23 February 1986, when Pairin was in KL to attend the Rulers’ Conference, he was asked by the Press of his opinion with regards to the rumors that a few PBS politicians were intending to quit the party. So confident was he of his powers that he condescendingly brushed aside the matter as mere rumors and speculations. 

On 24 February 1986, Francis Liong (Asst. Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) announced that he and 5 other MPs (Haji Adut Sigoh, Thomas Anggan, Wences Lojinga, Bernard Chin and Ignatius Malanjum) were quitting PBS. The 6 has earlier written to the Speaker asking him to ignore the pre-sign letters of resignation which might be submitted by PBS in the event that they quit the party. The 10-month old PBS State Government is now left with only 22 elected MPs. (The initial 26 elected MPs were appended with 5 frogs from USNO/Berjaya making it 31 in total until the fateful day in the Assembly when Pairin had to withdraw his Constitutional Amendment Bill due to the fact that 2 of the 5 frogs went missing, and the by-election which they won 2 and lost 2.) The crisis intensified when rumors surfaced that all the Chinese MPs might leave PBS to form their own party (Parti Cina Sabah).

The PBS people were able to locate Wences and Haji Adut in KL and after some hard bargaining, was able to get them to withdraw their pledge to leave PBS. That made the total 24 plus 6 in the 54 seat Assembly, too close for comfort considering the fact that Sabah politics revolves around these frogs. A few more jumpers and that would be the end for PBS. (The former Pakatan state government of Perak should have learnt from Pairin.) His decision was to seek a new mandate from the people (before other PBS MPs could jump) and this he made certain of when he obtained an undated pre-signed (by Adnan) declaration of dissolution of the Legislative Assembly. However, Adnan was still in KL so Pairin had to backdate it to the 24th (the day Adnan left KK for KL). Pairin immediately called a press conference at 5pm at his office and announced that “rather than hang on to a weakened government under siege, the PBS has decided to go back to the people to get a clear mandate as to who should rule. The Legislative Assembly is dissolved effective today (February 26th) although the declaration was signed by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri on the February 24th.” It was also his chance to get rid of the turncoat Speaker.

Abdul Salleh Ghapur (former Merotai MP) filed a writ on March 1st at the KK High Court seeking to declare that the dissolution was null and void in view of the outstanding Mustapha writ. He also sought an interim injunction against the EC from conducting a general election in Sabah. The EC which met on 3rd March was only too obliging (for whatever reasons that they have) and cited administrative problems and a lack of funds (Ha! Ha!) to hold such an election at this juncture of time, henceforth deferring the decision (probably until they have received instructions from the Federal Government). The newly formed PCS did not want to be left out and started their propaganda machinery. They announced that they will contest in 9 Chinese dominated constituencies at the polls. Meanwhile everybody was holding their breath awaiting the High Court ruling, due on 12th March.

Would the 12th March ruling be the end of the story? Not bloody likely! Look at it this way, if new elections were held, the Mustapha writ would have been inconsequential owing to the fact a new CM would emerge from the polls, regardless if it was Pairin, Mustapha, Harris, Bob the Builder or Optimus Prime. One, Mustapha would be implicated in the “Palace Coup”. (Chinese idiom – “Water wash also not clean”) Two, Pairin would have been the undeclared victor as it was his dissolution (as CM) that would spark a new round of elections.

At 8am on the 12th of March 1986, a crowd was already building up at the KK High Court compound. Some estimate it at about 2,000 people (predominantly USNO supporters) awaiting the verdict in the hot sun. The first bomb exploded at 8.45am behind the Public Finance building. 5 more explosions occurred almost simultaneously at the Segama Complex (again), the Central Market, the Sinsurun Complex, the Jalan Tugu Shell station and the Jalan Pantai Esso station. Then the panic started. Everyone started to leave the capital at the same time and causing a massive traffic jam. Just as everyone started to calm down a bit, the 7th bomb exploded at the Jalan Haji Yaakub petrol station at almost 10am. Once again the panic started in earnest.

Meanwhile, the crowd at the High Court compound soon realized that the court wasn’t about to hasten the court proceedings just to impress them, and finding nothing better to do (after the initial excitement of the bomb blasts), they began to march off to Mustapha’s residence (at Tanjong Aru) in a show of support for the USNO leader (which was pointless since Mustapha was in KL).

In Sandakan, almost 3,000 USNO supporters marched through the main street shouting out anti-government slogans. 21 persons were detained by the police. In Tawau, 18 shops were burnt down by arsonists which resulted in 2 deaths.

In KL, Mahathir said that the PDRM would ensure the safety of the people and that the IGP was personally flying to Sabah to access the situation there.

In KK, USNO and Berjaya filed a petition to the PM, asking him to intervene and to help resolve the state’s political impasse. PBS appealed for calm and said that the situation was under control. Everything seemed normal approaching evening time. 

The next morning, Muslims found painted crosses desecrating the walls of the State Mosque. The Muslim leaders urged the Federal Government to step in before the situation worsened. Over 1,000 Muslims gathered at the State Mosque to protest PBS’s violation of their mosque. Pairin denied that it was the work of PBS and put the blame on irresponsible elements. USNO started to put out a list of 15 reasons branding PBS as anti-Islam. (Here we go again…)

On March 17th, the KK High Court rejected Ghapur’s application. Some 5,000 USNO supporters who were gathered at the court began marching to the State Mosque. As with any large group of people, things soon got rowdy. The police arrested 77 and questioned over 1,000 people. 5 bombs rocked Sandakan the next day.

On March 19th, some 2,000 Muslim protestors marching to the State Mosque had their first confrontation with the police. After repeatedly warning the protestors to disperse (which they did not), the police fired teargas at them. The situation became chaotic when a group of protestors began to burn cars and a few warehouses located nearby. This forced the riot police to charge them and they soon discovered the torches that were used to light the fires (amongst the demonstrators). When the arsonists and rioters began to flee, the riot police opened fire on them killing 6. For the first time in Sabahan history, a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed as more and more police were called into the city to patrol the streets. The arriving IGP appealed to Mustapha to use his influence to call off the demonstrations.

The last demonstration was held on March 23rd, led by Harris, Hamid Mustapha (Tun Mustapha’s son) and other USNO members. They were however stopped by the police and were asked to disperse. Once again the marchers refused this order and teargas was used on them. The police booked 322 people for illegal procession.

USNO again petitioned the Federal Government to intervene but Mahathir was not biting. His famous words of BN swimming or sinking with Berjaya kept him from doing so and it was also these proud words that have kept him from approving PBS’s application to join BN. Mustapha and USNO was also no friend of Mahathir. The Federal Government was going to intercede only on his terms, at a time of his choice and in a manner of his liking.

The next day, Mahathir finally came up with a “peace formula” and that is an ultimatum to PBS that they form a coalition party with Berjaya and USNO or face federal emergency rule. Mahathir stayed in KK for only 6 hours before flying back to KL. Ghaffar Baba tagged along as the Chief Negotiator. USNO (16 seats) welcomed the “peace formula” as they would be part of the state government. Berjaya (3 seats only) welcomed the “peace formula” as they would be part of the state government. PBS (26 + 6 seats) was covertly against the “peace formula” as they would now have to share power with their political opponents, but overtly portray that they were “keen” on it as well for the sake of security. Moral of story so far, never trust a politician.

Mahathir then announced to the press that he was confident that the crisis in Sabah would be resolved in view of the general acceptance of the (his) formula by the three political parties. Mahathir also said that it was now merely a matter of sorting out the details between the three parties before a coalition government is announced. He had in fact given the three party leaders a mere two days to set up the meeting. BTW, one of the proposals of this formula is that there will be no fresh elections (Pairin will have to withdraw the declaration of dissolution) and that the parties “maintain their respective number of representatives in the Assembly” and another proposal is for Mustapha to withdraw his writ from the KK High Court.

With the impending dateline in mind, the USNO and Berjaya leaders rushed to KL to set up a meeting with Ghaffar, hoping to iron out these details before the situation in Sabah worsen. On D-Day, the PBS leader has yet to turn up at KL. Pairin instead sent his deputy, Mark Koding as the representative, pleading illness and that his doctors had ordered him to take a complete rest. Not surprisingly, Koding failed to meet up with Mahathir.

While Koding was in KL, the massive propaganda machinery of PBS started working. A signature campaign to reject the Peace Formula was soon started (not by PBS) by a group of people who called themselves “The Voice of the People of Sabah”. Not surprisingly, they were almost all PBS supporters. Secondly, PBS has started their reelection committee and was actively campaigning. This delay in the negotiation process (Koding might be the rep but he had to clear everything with Pairin) paid off handsomely as the Federal Attorney General Abu Talib somehow managed to convince Mahathir that fresh elections in Sabah is mandatory after the declaration of dissolution has been signed and ratified as the constitution does not provide for the CM or Governor to withdraw it once it has been officially declared. Moreover, the KK High Court has ruled against an injunction to nullify the declaration of dissolution.

So, while the leaders of both USNO and Berjaya were in KL, hoping that an accord can be established to form a coalition government, PBS was already ahead of the game. Even though Pairin had chosen to publicly embarrass Mahathir, the PBS leader was not brave enough to think that he could get away with it and hence his trip to KL (this time his doctors failed to order him to take a rest) to meet Mahathir to discuss his counter proposals. Naturally, Mahathir pointedly refused to see him. Pairin however managed to meet Ghaffar who accepted these counter proposals without discussing them. One of these proposals is that PBS would only entertain the formation of a coalition government after fresh elections in Sabah has been conducted. 

The question is why Pairin would only consider the formation of a coalition government after fresh elections and not before it. The answers are quite obvious. One, if a coalition government was formed without fresh elections, PBS’s representation would only number 26 (as the 6 appointed MPs would be neutralized). Two, Pairin could not get rid of the troublesome Speaker. Three, the majority of Sabahans were anti-USNO and anti-Berjaya after the bomb explosions and the violent demonstrations. Four, Adnan was on his side. Five, the KK OCPD, Supt Victor Lim was on his side. Six, the withdrawal of the writ would not clear him of any wrongdoings, and seven, he revealed a plot by USNO and Berjaya to oust him as CM and to topple the PBS government by producing a transcript of a telephone conversation between Majid Khan (Berjaya’s elections director) and Yaacob Marican (USNO legal team member). Additionally, there were rumors circulating within the Sabah judiciary that Mustapha had lost his writ at the KK High Court.

Pairin also knew for a fact (or was extremely confident) that all the Chinese and Kadazan seats were theirs. Their election strategy was hence centered on the Muslim-majority constituencies. When the EC belatedly announced on April 3rd that the Sabah state elections will be held on May 5th and 6th (subjected to the Mustapha writ), PBS was already well prepared for it.

Pairin can be considered a shrewd, wily, cunning and ruthless man but one cannot call him stupid. Maybe reckless, but never stupid. Far from it, Pairin matched Mahathir in all aspects even to the fact that he can publicly humiliate the PM and get away with it.

With the election date announced and with a strategic plan to make inroads into the Malay vote, Pairin knew that he would have to count heavily on the “sympathy votes” from the Muslim community as his pro-Kadazan stance would be detrimental in such a situation. To garner sufficient votes to topple the USNO MPs in the Malay strongholds, he resorted once again to the politics of expediency, an anti-Federal Government stance (since USNO and Berjaya are portrayed as pro-Federal Govt). Thus Pairin announced on April 9th that PBS has decided to withdraw its application to join BN. 

BN countered this move by revealing that the “Peace Formula” was in actuality part Pairin’s plan and it was the PBS leader that had suggested most of the major elements including the expansion (to 14) and composition of the State Cabinet, the inclusion of both PBS and USNO into BN, the use of the BN logo in the elections and the power sharing scheme of the proposed coalition government (PBS-28 seats, USNO-16 seats and Berjaya-4 seats).

Pairin denied it all and said that Ghaffar had in fact misunderstood him.

On April 15, Justice Datuk Tan delivered his judgment confirming Pairin as the rightful CM. Justice Tan also lambasted those who were involved in the Mustapha swearing-in ceremony. Mustapha’s legal counsel, Kidwell QC was so disgusted with the judgment that he left Sabah the same evening.

Nomination Day on April 19th proved to be quite a day when USNO leader Mustapha and his protégé  Yahya shocked their supporters by declaring that they would not contest the elections. This was the USNO strategy to wrestle the Chinese votes from PBS as both Mustapha and Yahya were hated by the Chinese people in Sabah. Worse still, Mustapha flatly refused to campaign for USNO (he thought that his presence would inflame the Chinese). Rumors began circulating that Mustapha was in fact acting on KL orders as part of a grand strategy to topple PBS. Mustapha soon left Sabah on trips to Sydney and London purportedly seeking medical treatments. Hamid tried in vain to convince his father to make token appearances. In fact Hamid have to leave Sabah chasing after his father (which was rather foolish) to convince him to return that he himself was missing from Sabah. Hamid himself did not even start to campaign in his own constituency until the final few days before Election Day. USNO was so short of funds that the candidates had to forego “ceramahs” and instead go on a house-to-house campaign to secure the votes. Political funds contributions were far and few in between.

Berjaya was on a totally different tact. Their strategy was to “steal” their coalition partners’ (USNO, PCS and PMS) votes and appending them to their own votes and hoping that the accumulation would be sufficient to tackle the PBS candidates. They henceforth went all out to promote their own candidates only. This double-dealing soon caused problems for their group of volunteers as USNO and Berjaya’s supporters and workers refused to cooperate and work with each other. Berjaya’s elections funds were also scarce as Sabahans refused to make donations to a party that was considered a loser. Even the Federal Government did not contribute much to the party (everybody recognizes a loser).

PBS had no such problems. One, its war chest was filled to the brim and over flowing from donations by the Sabahan business community (everybody recognizes a winner). Two, they were extremely confident of obtaining the majority of the urban votes and three, because they were so confident in winning the 28 Chinese and Kadazan seats, these were left to the respective PBS candidates to do as they wish (and with more than sufficient funds to do it). The top PBS hierarchy only concentrated their efforts on the remaining 20 Malay-majority pro-USNO constituencies. Berjaya had tried before and failed miserably, how was PBS capable then?

In a long term strategy initiated by PBS after Pairin was sworn-in, the party had begun (more than a year ago) to move non-Muslim voters into these areas by giving them low cost flats built here. Business districts were also established in these areas as part of their alleged campaign to appease and enrich the Muslims but were in fact to attract the Chinese businessmen to setup shop here and hence settling here as well. New housing projects were also concentrated in these areas. In the diehard USNO areas, PBS fielded recently recruited well-known Malay candidates and former USNO frogs. In other “cannot win” areas, PBS fielded other “independent” Malay-Muslim candidates to split the vote. Moral of story so far, if you cannot win a contest, make it doubly hard for your opponents to win it.

Furthermore, PBS started screening (and distributing) tapes of the recent Muslim demonstrations, the clashes with the police, the illegal processions, the effects of the bombings, the fires, and scenes of crowds outside the High Court chanting anti-PBS slogans.

The results? USNO’s strategy of not fielding Mustapha and Yahya backfired. Berjaya’s strategy of going alone backfired. PBS won 34 contested seats (almost 71%), USNO won 12 seats (from 16 in 1985), Berjaya won 1 seat (from 6 in 1985) and PCBS won 1 seat. PBS was to win the following 1990 State elections (36 seats) and the 1994 State elections (25 seats) making them the first ever 4-term Sabahan state government.

However Mahathir got the last laugh as BN managed to wrestle (cheat?) the state government from PBS in 1994 after enticing enough of PBS MPs to crossover. Pairin lasted less than two weeks as CM before he resigned his position on the 17th of March 1994. (The Perak Fiasco was therefore NOT THE FIRST TIME a democratically elected state government had lost power after a general election due to party hopping by dishonourable Assemblymen.)

Moral of story: “Go think about it!”

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