by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, June 12, 1993:
Scandalous that the Malaysian Constitution should be amended just to enable one person to be Federal Cabinet Minister and save UMNO Sabah from the embarrassment of a Sabah State by-election which it might lose
After agonizing for over three weeks, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, has finally decided to amend the Malaysian Constitution to enable Tun Mustapha to become the Minister for Sabah Affairs without having to resign from the Usukan Sabah State Assembly seat, followed by a by-election as required by Article 43(8) of the Federal Constitution.
This was the effect of the UMNO Supreme Council decision yesterday to make such a constitutional amendment, as announced by Dr. Mahathir after the meeting.
Dr. Mahathir has finally decided that it would be politically too costly and damaging to UMNO to go through with a Usukan by-election and that it is easier to amend the Federal Constitution instead.
It is indeed scandalous that the Malaysian Constitution should be amended just to enable one person to be a Federal Cabinet Minister and to save UMNO Sabah from the embarrassment of a Sabah state by-election which it might lose.
Dr. Mahathir had clearly been badly advised over the whole question of the appointment of Tun Mustapha as Minister for Sabah Affairs, for he should have known of Article 43(8) of the Federal Constitution requiring a Sabah State Assemblymen to resign his seat on his appointment to the Federal Cabinet.
In other countries with high Ministerial standards, Law Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar have resigned for his ‘blooper’ that Tun Mustapha need not vacate his Sabah State Assembly seat before taking up his Federal Cabinet appointment
When Dr. Mahathir appointed Tan Sri Sakaran Dandai as Minister for Land and Co-operative Development after the 1990 general elections, Sakaran Dandai had to vacate his Sipitang Sabah State Assembly seat because of Article 43(8) of the Federal Constitution.
Even if Dr. Mahathir had overlooked Article 43(8) of the Federal Constitution when he made his surprise announcement of Tun Mustapha’s appointment as Minister for Sabah Affairs (as Tun Mustapha himself claimed that he learnt of it from the television) on May 19, there is no excuse whatsoever for the Minister for Law, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, to decare 24 hours later that “there was no law which said that Tun Mustapha had to vacate his State Assembly seat”.
In countries where Ministers are expected to conform to high standards of Ministerial competence and capability, a Law Minister who could publicly commit such a ‘blooper’ would have tendered his resignation.
From his various pronouncements recently pertaining to law, it would be more appropriate to call Datuk Syed Hamid Albar the Minister against Law rather than the Minister for Law!
Something is frighteningly wrong about the way the government is run that despite the clear provision of Article 43(8) that Tun Mustapha must resign first before he could assume any Ministerial appointment, his oath-taking was scheduled to take place on 26th May 1993!
When it finally dawned on Dr. Mahathir that Tun Mustapha cannot assume his Federal Cabinet appointment without resigning his Sabah state assembly seat, Dr. Mahathir said in Kuantan on May 22 that “UMNO is ready to face a by-election if Tun Mustapha has to vacate his Usukan state seat”.
However, Dr. Mahathir had made another political misjudgement, for he must learnt subsequently that UMNO in Sabah was not ready to flight a by-election in Usukan – despite repeated claims by the Chairman of the Sabah UMNO, Ghafar Baba, that the PBS Government would be dissolving the Sabah state assembly any time and that UMNO is ever ready to fight a Sabah state general elections.
Dr. Mahathir’s visit to Kota Kinabalu for the harvest Day Festival on May 30 was clearly designed to get a feel of the political ground, and he must have found the ground for UMNO in Sabah very hard and cold indeed!
The amendment of the Federal Constitution shows that the Barisan Nasinal Government does not have any respect for the sanctity of the Federal Constitution which not be amended just to suit the political whim and fancy of the political leadership in power.
What makes the amendment even more scandalous is that it is to allow Tun Mustapha to become Federal Minister, when Tun Mustapha, 75, is publicly knowns as too ill for public office – who had to be given long leave of absence from attending Parliament, brought to Dewan Rakyat in a wheel-chair in the January special sitting of Parliament during the voting of the Constitution Amendment Bill on the removal of the Rulers’ immunity, and too ill to accompany Dr. Mahathir to Kota Kinabalu for the Harvest Day Festival on May 30.