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Labuan handover was approved by State Assembly, says court
Published on: Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: A suit against former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Mohd Salleh brought by a businessman over the alleged unlawful handing over of Labuan to the Federal Government in 1984, was dismissed with costs by the High Court here.

Judge Chew Soo Ho delivered his decision on Monday on the preliminary issues raised by the defendant (Harris), who questioned the locus standi of the plaintiff, James Albanus, at the start of the suit on April 30 this year.

Chew held that Albanus cannot maintain the action and awarded RM15,000 in costs to Harris.

In his decision Chew, among others, held that there was no valid ground to render such surrender of Labuan as unlawful. "It is of my opinion that consent is therefore given to the boundaries alteration based on the Federal Territory of Labuan Enactment 1984. Based on Article 2(b) of the Federal Constitution, Parliament has made a law to alter the boundary of any state," he said.

So there was no reason that the alteration of the State of Sabah was unlawful based on Article 2(b) of the Federal Constitution as parliament has the power to make law to alter the boundary of any state, he said, adding that, the surrender of Labuan to the Federal Government had been passed by the State Legislative Assembly.

Chew further held that the act of surrendering of Labuan was not an act of the defendant in his personal capacity, despite being Chief Minister at that time. "The actual surrender of Labuan is in pursuant of the said Enactment.

The State of Sabah which surrendered Labuan is in accordance to the law and an act of the State.

"Therefore, there is no cause of action to sue the defendant in his personal capacity,' said Chew.

On the issue whether Albanus' action should be dismissed with costs, Chew said: "The plaintiff has no locus standi and as a wrong party, the plaintiff cannot maintain this action. I, thus dismiss the action with costs."

The court set July 21 for both parties to decide on the counterclaim filed by Harris against Albanus for defamation.

Albanus, 60, of Kg Biau, Papar who in his suit, claimed for damages, costs and statutory interest, said Harris did not undertake a referendum among the populace of Labuan as well as citizens of Sabah before making the move.

He also claimed that Harris had acted unilaterally and individually without compliance with the relevant constitutional safeguards and also the well being of the citizenry of the State of Sabah.

As a result, he claimed the State Government and citizens of Sabah suffered unquantifiable financial and social loss at the material time and for generations to come.

Meanwhile, Harris had filed a counterclaim against Albanus for defamation made in a local daily newspaper dated March 8, 2012 with the title "Harris sued for giving away Labuan 28 years ago."

Harris said the plaintiff's statement in the article bore the meanings and was understood to bear the meaning that he (Harris) "had surreptitiously surrendered or transferred the island of Labuan to the Federal Government in an unconstitutional manner for his own benefit or financial gain and had completely disregarded the economic wellbeing of the State of Sabah or its people or the Labuan people in transferring the administration to the Federal Government.

Albanus was represented by counsel Nurul Rafeeqa Abdul Mutolip while Harris by Yunof Maringking and Trevor Maringking.

Nurul Rafeeqa when met after the proceedings, said both parties would discuss whether to proceed with the defendant's counterclaim.

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