Yong: Reckless Ministers to be held personally responsible for defiance of law?

Kota Kinabalu, Friday, 11 October 2019 : By digging in at the office of the Director of Water Department, the illegal director is digging a bigger hole for the government. Because by defying the High Court declaration on 9 October that the appointment of Director of Water Department is illegal, the government is bringing upon itself even more risks of consequential legal actions arising from the illegal actions of an illegal director.

As it is, illegal appointment of the director on 1 August 2018 has already exposed the government to potential legal actions dating back to 10 August 2018 when the appointment became effective. And now, with the defiance of the High Court declaration, the government is further exposing itself to more damaging legal actions.

If the Government leaders continue to recklessly and knowingly flout the law and defy court judgements, then potential legal actions should be explored to make these leaders personally responsible for defying the law.

Let me explain briefly here.                                                            

The Sabah Water Supply Enactment 2003 has been effective ever since 2 January 2004 upon the gazetting of the Enactment. The Government Gazette Notice (GN No. 946/2003) had stipulated that the Enactment shall come into force on 2 January 2004. The same Enactment has earlier been assented to by the Head of State (TYT) on 20 November 2003 after the passing of the Enactment by the Sabah Legislative Assembly on 20 October 2003.

In other words, the law (that the Director of Water Department shall be appointed from amongst the members of the State Public Service) has been in effect ever since 2 January 2004.

It was not because of the High Court declaration, (on 9 October 2019 that the appointment of one Amarjit Singh as Director of Water Department is illegal), that the law became effective. The law has always been effective, and continues to be effective, ever since 2 January 2004.

The law, known as Section 3 of the Sabah Water Supply Enactment 2003, was breached on 1 August 2018 when the Sabah Public Service Commission issued the letter appointing Amarjit Singh as Director, which appointment was effective on 10 August 2018.

In view of the breach of the law, one Mr. Pang Thou Chung and I had sought a court declaration that the appointment of the said Director is illegal. On October 9, the KK High Court, after perusing the documents and facts and hearing legal arguments from my lawyers and the Sabah Attorney General Chambers, declared that the appointment is in clear breach of the law.

I am appalled to read that Datuk Amarjit has relied on the two phone calls from the Chief Minister and another call from his Minister “to continue to work” as Director of Water Department. This behaviour is in clear defiance of the law.

Such defiant behaviour further reinforced the view that he is not qualified as a public servant. If he had behaved as director of a government department, he would have immediately sought instructions from the State Secretary. But because he behaves as a politician and not a public servant, he had relied on the wrong authority, namely his political leaders. Should the law allow such leaders to act with impunity and knowingly against the law which puts the Government at risk of further damages and losses?

Datuk Yong Teck Lee
Ex-Chief Minister