Friday, April 24, 2009


Stephen Kalong Ningkan (No.1)

A Brief Analysis

Malaysia has a dubious distinction of having a disproportionately high number of chief ministers of states being dismissed. In fact, the first such crisis in Sarawak was only the second of its kind in the British Commonwealth. These dismissals have caused constitutional crisis in the states and brought the Federal and respective State Constitutions into sharp focus. In nearly all the cases, the courts have been asked to interpret the constitutions by either implying certain powers into the written constitutions or including constitutional conventions that either should exist for the better governance of the state or are said to have been inherited from the British. The predominant approach of the courts has been to interpret the letter of the written law strictly and narrowly. It has also brought into focus the role and constitutional powers of the heads of states and the power of the Federation to intervene in the states using its various federal powers. The current constitutional crisis in Perak has also drawn attention to earlier decisions related to the dismissal of chief ministers of states. It is going to be necessary for the courts to resolve the constitutional issues by considering the previously decided cases. The starting point is of course the case of Stephen Kalong Ningkan v Tun Abang Haji Openg and Tawi Sli. [1966] 2 MLJ 187. Much has already been written recently about this case by academics and constitutional lawyers. The Privy Council decision in Adegbenro v Akintola [1963] 3 WLR 63; (1963) 7 JAL 99 was extensively referred to in Stephen Kalong Ningkan (No.1) and has been repeatedly reported by some writers. It is important to remember that the Privy Council decision was distinguished and not followed in Stephen Kalong Ningkan (No.1) and even in Nigeria it was by-passed by the Western Nigeria Legislature.

Please see the brief analysis of the case of Stephen Kalong Ningkan (No.1) at

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