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Zahid’s case: Appalling optics; hire external prosecutors  

Perceptions matter in the quest for justice

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Pardon us for we may not know all the facts, but perceptions are perceptions and these do cut ice when we have a “unity government” that speaks about “Malaysia Madani” (Civil Malaysia).

English writer Aldous Huxley once said, “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”

I respect the PM – but his statement that the attorney general alone made the decision to discontinue the 47 charges against Deputy PM Zahid Hamidi is unconvincing.

After all, the attorney general is part of the executive. There was even a time in the 1970s when the attorney general – Kadir Yusof – was also a cabinet minister.

Even if the PM was not involved, he must ensure that steps are taken to deal with such anomalies. Otherwise, as a reformist, he is condoning an unjust practice.

Coincidences?

Why did deputy public prosecutor Raja Rozela Raja Toran apply on 3 April for leave ahead of early retirement on 1 November. Her leave began on 30 August, just before the prosecution’s bombshell decision in Zahid’s case on 4 September.

If I were in her position, a decision like this would not have secured my support, and I would be left with no option but to resign. Raja Rozela left with her credibility intact. She practised the value of trust.

Second, why was the prosecution’s decision on 4 September made at a time when the outgoing attorney general had gone on leave in late August prior to his retirement on 6 September – during the interim period before the new attorney general took office, also on 6 September.

All this is grey and does not give us confidence. It suggests an underhand approach at a time when the PM was away attending an Asean meeting.

Maybe I am reading too much into these coincidences! Yet, it is important for the powers that be to wake up and realise that the public are neither stupid nor can they be fooled all the time.

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Ex-attorney general must explain

Has the former attorney general asked himself if this act of his is in keeping with Malaysia Madani. How does this exemplify respect for the law, trust in the office of the attorney general, and compassion – key attributes of Malaysia Madani? This is an instance when the Madani attributes were not applied.

There is a need to stand up for a cause – otherwise, it is all lip service. In the aftermath, damage control measures are being undertaken.

Standing up means paying a price for what is right, and this is an expectation one has from those who believe and practise the Madani values. This is severely lacking in the decision to grant Zahid a conditional discharge.

Many of us had been following Zahid’s case closely. The prosecution had earlier made out a prima facie case. People can understand if some of the charges were badly framed.

But to discontinue all 47 charges against Zahid raises questions about the credibility of the attorney general’s office. Already, an earlier attorney general had discredited himself and his office when he indicated that there was no case against Malaysia’s ‘famous’ kleptocrat!

In Zahid’s case, look at the time spent, the costs incurred and the charges filed: 12 counts of criminal breach of trust, eight of corruption and 27 of money laundering. So much money, time and effort expended – only to end up with zero! Is this an example of how this unity government is saving money?

In one of Lim Guan Eng’s cases, he and another party faced two corruption charges. Despite the prosecution initially applying for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, the High Court judge granted both of them full acquittals on both charges.

The late spy chief had one charge, as did Tengku Adnan Mansor – unlike the 47 charges that Zahid Hamidi faced.

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How can the outgoing attorney general live with this reality?

Gone quiet

It would be good at this time to look back and review some other developments in a similar vein.

The late spy chief Hasanah Abdul Hamid also secured a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in her RM50m criminal breach of trust case. Then we have Tengku Adnan, who was also given a similar discharge from his RM1m corruption charge. This was in 2020, and what has the attorney general’s office done about these cases so far?

Is this one way to appease those concerned and short-change our justice system? Have there been any cases of a discharge not amounting to an acquittal that have since had fresh charges filed and the prosecution resumed in recent times?

Then there were several Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission cases that were announced which have since gone quiet.

Recall the case of the CEO of the Companies Commission of Malaysia embroiled in a computer issue with her son which led to her resignation and subsequent investigation.

Then we have the issue of a former Bank Negara governor who had to resign over a land transaction involving the central bank.

We were all witnesses of pictures of rooms stacked with money and the charging of a top official of the Batu Caves Temple.

What is the status of these cases?

Is this typically Malaysian justice – where who you know makes the difference -because the attorney general does seem to wield immense powers.

This makes even the judges seem helpless.

Recently, we learnt that the MACC had arrested a businessman with disproportionate wealth and seized millions in cash and gold bars. He has since been released on bail.

Meanwhile, another politician and former minister, a close ally, remarked that the MACC investigates many, but not all cases are followed up. What cheek! How does this reflect on the MACC as an institution?

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Hire external prosecutors

Another perception is that the prosecution side of the MACC is weak and combined with the Attorney General’s Chambers, they are unable to meet the challenges posed by private lawyers who have both the capacity and ability to raise issues that are not adequately answered by the chambers.

For the prosecution of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, the then attorney general brought in external lawyers to lead the prosecution. Najib and Zahid have the resources to pay lawyers, who raise all sorts of issues. The lawyers are also the beneficiaries, as they fight tooth and nail for their clients.

In the end, those who look stupid are the many in Malaysia who have kept faith with this unity government and its Malaysia Madani. Where is the separation of powers when the attorney general, a member of the executive branch, can end a case that is already before the court.

May be the Constitution allows for this, but even then, shouldn’t this provision be used sparingly? Unfortunately, it is becoming a norm and such actions make our institutions look weak and susceptible to manipulation.

Now that Zahid has been conditionally discharged, it would be good if the attorney general appoints fresh external prosecutors to take on the case. In the spirit of Madani, this is what the PM should initiate. If the new attorney general is worth his salt in terms of his integrity and faith in justice, then he would do so.

Though my heart sank on hearing this verdict, our expectations of this unity and Madani government remain high – hence this challenge. Take action or whatever you say will be regarded as hot air!

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Raymond Rayan
Raymond Rayan
10 Sep 2023 12.46pm

well said and u have my support

Paul Lim
Paul Lim
10 Sep 2023 4.39am

Is this to keep BN in the coalition government? Anwar has lost his way, his credibility. When in power, the tune changes.

Aloysius Francis Pinto
8 Sep 2023 11.35pm

I fully concur the stance taken by Haridas and Aliran. I also fully support the RAKYAT’S AGENDA.
Now the PM must show us that he will walk his talk.
Since 1998 I have supported PMX as a Reformist. Thousands or maybe millions of citizens have supported the Reformation Agenda. Many have worked tirelessly to supported the PH because of the promise of REAL REFORMS, PMX should heed the call made by Haridas and Aliran.
“Now that Zahid has been conditionally discharged, it would be good if the attorney general appoints fresh external prosecutors to take on the case. In the spirit of Madani, this is what the PM should initiate. If the new attorney general is worth his salt in terms of his integrity and faith in justice, then he would do so.’

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