Stephen Kalong Ningkan - 1966 Sarawak Constitutional Crisis

1966 Sarawak Constitutional Crisis

Stephen Kalong Ningkan tried to initiate a land reform law that allowed the natives to acquire full title of Native Customary Land. However, with the alleged backing of the federal government, the Sarawak state assemblymen started to pass a motion of no confidence against him. The then prime minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman pushed for Ningkan resignation.

On 16 June 1966, Ningkan was ousted when the state Governor showed him a letter of no confidence issued by 21 out of 42 legislators and asked Ningkan to resign as Chief Minister. Ningkan refused, saying the letters were not tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the Council Negri (now Sarawak State Legislative Assembly). He was sacked by the governor but eventually reinstated by the Borneo High Court on 7 September 1966, which saw the necessity of a formal vote of no confidence.In his judgement, Justice Harley ruled that the Governor can only dismiss the Chief Minister when both these conditions are satisfied:

(a) The Chief Minister has lost the confidence of the House, and
(b) The Chief Minister has refused to resign and failed to advise a dissolution.

Ningkan tried to initiate a dissolution of Council Negri upon his reinstatement of chief minister in order to seek a fresh mandate from the voters; but the Malaysian government decided to impose a state of emergency in Sarawak, citing chaos in the state. The Malaysian government also amended the Sarawak Constitution in order to give the power to the Sarawak governor to commence the Council Negri meeting. A vote of non-confidence was passed on 23 September 1966, and this has resulted in the removal of Ningkan from the chief minister office for the second time.

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