Malaysia clears the deck for National Elections

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

March 17, 2012

Asia Sentinel (03-16-12)

Malaysia clears the deck for National Elections

By Asia Sentinel Correspondent (03-16-12)

Embarrassing cases are pushed forward past anticipated summer polls

What do these controversies have in common?

  • It was announced last weekend that Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Malaysia’s Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, had been forced out of her position as a result of what has become known as the “cowgate” scandal and will step down on April 8 when her current term ends.
  • On March 13, the day after Sharizat’s husband, Mohamed Salleh Ismail, was charged in court in the alleged misuse of RM250 million of government money in scandal, Zuraidah Kamaruddin, an opposition Member of Parliament sought to bring up the matter, only to be told by the speaker, Amin Mulia, that the matter is now in court and is therefore sub judice – Latin for under judicial consideration– and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere, taking away a potent campaign issue for the opposition.
  • On the same weekend Shahrizat was put out to pasture, Malaysia’s Securities Commission announced after months of controversy that the embattled chairwoman, Zarinah Anwar, would step down at the end of the month in the wake of a blatant conflict of interest involving her husband’s trading in shares.
  • Arguments in the appeal of the two convicted killers of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, first expected to be held on February 10, then delayed until March 9, have now been put off until August 27 and 28.
  • On January 9, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was declared not guilty in his long-running and widely publicized trial on sodomy charges, only to have the case appealed on January 25. The government’s appeal of the not-guilty verdict is expected to be held far into the future.
  • There are a variety of other controversies hanging fire as well, including the trial of former Malaysian Chinese Association boss Ling Liong Sik over a massive scandal in the construction of the Port Klang Free Zone, in which the government could lose as much as RM12.45 billion (US$3.93 billion) in the botched construction of the Port. The prosecution finished up its case against Ling several months ago but only recently announced that he must put on a defense. It is uncertain when he will be called to do so.

What these cases have in common is all of these matters are being pushed forward into the future or taken care of in other ways, say observers in Kuala Lumpur.

“They are trying to push everything after June or July which makes us more convinced polls are going to be in June,” said a Kuala Lumpur businessman.

Any and all of the matters have the potential to disturb what the Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition, hopes will be the smooth conduct of national elections that are expected to be called sometime during the summer, perhaps in May or June.

Of the attempt to declare sub judice the National Feedlot scandal that cost Shahrizat her job Kim Quek, a spokesman for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat, responded in a prepared statement: “It is not difficult to see that the present drama is a carefully crafted stratagem involving the concerted effort of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, police and the attorney general, to extricate the Barisan Nasional from a potentially crippling predicament on the eve of an impending election.

Well before the end of Anwar’s trial in December last year, a source with connections to the United Malays National Organization sketched out a scenario for Asia Sentinel in which Anwar would be declared not guilty of having homosexual sex with his onetime aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The theory was that a guilty verdict would generate sympathy for the opposition and for Anwar in that it would be regarded as hopelessly rigged because of a long list of discrepancies in the trial. A not-guilty verdict would be similarly unpalatable for the prosecution because it would be a reminder that Anwar had spent more than three years under a cloud since Saiful made the charge against him on June 29, 2008.

Whether planned or not, the appeal worked out as positive for the government as Saiful’s father, Azlan Mohd Lazim, held an emotional press conference demanding that the attorney general appeal “for the sake of my son.” Outraged statements over the verdict filled the mainstream press until January 25, when Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail announced his office would file the appeal. Thus the government got nearly a month of publicity in addition to shunting the decision far into the future.

Equally, the appeal of the convicted murderers in the politically charged case of the Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu was obviously a problem because of long-running suspicions in Kuala Lumpur that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, were somehow connected to the case. At the very least it calls up questions over a 114 million euro “commission” paid to Najib’s best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, for the purchase by Malaysia of submarines from the French defense contractor DCNS. Most of the money is believed to have been kicked back to either UMNO of French politicians.

Altantuya was murdered on October 18, 2006. The interminable delays in getting justice for the murdered woman have led to suspicions that the delays are deliberate in order to erase the crime from the public mind. In the latest episode, the appeal of the two murderers supposedly was delayed from February 10 because records of the trial were sent to the prison where one of the bodyguards was incarcerated, something lawyers in Kuala Lumpur find inconceivable, since records are always delivered to the defendants’ attorneys and never to the inmates themselves. Then, although the case was to go to the appellate court on March 9, it was quietly moved forward to August.

“If someone suggested to me that is why all the timing seems to be falling into place just about now (in preparation for an election), it certainly is what people are thinking ,” said a Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer. “You need to be aware of what’s going on. Damage control, that is what they are doing.”

19 thoughts on “Malaysia clears the deck for National Elections

  1. It’s not clearing the deck here but BN is closing and latching all portholes and preparing to dive in their Scorpene subs. However they forgot that the Scorpenes can’t dive and the public haven’t forgotten. Watch out for the depth charges UMNO, they’ll blow you out of the water or you’d probably sink Scopene and all. UMNO meeting their watery graves just like Bin Laden.

  2. ‘Sub judice”? It requires the balancing of competing interests i.e. that of freedom of speech and due process and fairness. It is not a gag order issued by the court. There is wiggle room because it is “acceptable to publish material which is part of a discussion of public affairs”.

  3. Mongkut Bean, the Yang Ariff in Malaysia will have a different interpretation of Sub Judice, ala Malaysian style, you know Malaysia Boleh, 1Malaysia. It’s the Yang Ariff that needs to isolate themselves from open discussion lest they be unduly influenced especially if they are hearing the case. They can’t stop members of the public in discussing the case at all warong kopi or Mamak stalls.

  4. Orang Malaya,

    This is in case this fella Abnizar has planted the seeds of fear in our bloghost. What constitutes ‘publication’? The problem with the doctrine of sub judice is that it is archaic, a legacy of the past, peculiar to some common law jurisdictions. Over here it is all about the First Amendment.

    In Malaysia they do not use jurors. The fear is jurors may be tainted and their views prejudiced by what they read in the media. As for witnesses, they can be cross examined to expose their prejudices and if credibility is an issue they can be impeached and their evidence thrown out either in their entirety or in part. The rule ought to be written out as being archaic, as being unsuitable in an open justice system and as you say unenforceable.

  5. We have the internet today and that makes a lot of difference. The doctrine of sub judice is a legacy of the past.

  6. The judges are trained in the law and when acting as the trier of facts, they cannot be influenced. As trial judges they know how to sieve through and separate falsehood from the truth. At the end the trial, the judge will have to put pen to paper and write their judgments using principles of law and evidence to arrive at his or her decision. Most of the time they have already decided where the truth lies and it is a matter of finding the right principles of law based on the evidence admitted into court and reason out to his decision. Someimes you see convoluted reasoning.

  7. Yes, Pak Semper fi,

    Mention NFC sub judice. Mention Shahrizat sub judice. You can’t even order sop buntut lembu. That too is sub judice. Mention ‘cow’ sub judice. Might as well lable every cow’s ass ‘sub judice’ to remind folks. Tok Cik will be looking forward to slapping Shahrizat’s ass with his home made label ‘sub judice’.

  8. Hmmm … correct me if i am wrong , but should’nt it be the ” Long , cool Dane ” at your neck of the woods ? moid
    You’re wrong, it’s Dos Equis

  9. how many have died under this regime?

    beng hock?
    ahmad sarbani
    mongolian girl with immigration records erased?

    chinese, indian, malay, foreigners…how many more to go before the people wake up to vote them out?

  10. It is in the numbers. Come elections, some half of 60% will vote to maintain the status quo. A small fraction of the remaining — preferring to remain within their comfort zone and feeling that they are not being offered a real choice (better the Devil they know than the Devil they don’t ) — will act to also maintain the status quo. The rest is a matter of fudging the figures. You guys are hoping against hope.

  11. “In the latest episode, the appeal of the two murderers supposedly was delayed from February 10 because records of the trial were sent to the prison where one of the bodyguards was incarcerated, something lawyers in Kuala Lumpur find inconceivable, since records are always delivered to the defendants’ attorneys and never to the inmates themselves.”

    They will do whatever it takes. They have done all they could i.e fabricate evidence where evidence is lacking or non-existent, refusing to offer witnesses to the defence if they don’t wish to call them as their witnesses, even getting the trial judge to agree with them slamming the door on our faces. I hesitate to say in the face of the defense since there is evidence that the defense counsel appeared at times confused as to who they were representing. From the view of someone curious as to how the wheel of justice turns, this trial bears the hallmarks of Murphy’s law i.e. everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Except that there is nothing accidental about it.

    So should we be surprised that in the appeal these guys who now seem to have an open appointment with the hang-man are given the privilege of having their minds refreshed ‘at home’ rather than in open court? Heck! I will not be surprised if they sent two dead bodies to the gallows and then have the bodies whisked away in the dark of night instead of the early morning hours to be buried in some unmarked graves.

  12. But right now they seem to be working to introduce the benefit of the doubt. But coaching witnesses who think ” Go get rid of her” means “Go kill her” to say what they will have to say sufficient to create reasonable doubt is like teaching pigs how to fly. But them some pigs do fly.

  13. “A not-guilty verdict would be similarly unpalatable for the prosecution because it would be a reminder that Anwar had spent more than three years under a cloud since Saiful made the charge against him on June 29, 2008.”

    The naivete displayed in this statement does not bode well for anybody canvassing for the position of advisor to the opposition on strategies. A not-guilty verdict (not guilty does not mean the accused is innocent) would serve to dispel the notion that this regime now led by Najib Razak cannot be saved. There are redeeming qualities after all. It would reduce the flow of UMNO supporters to the exit from droves to a trickle by the time they are ready to cast their votes. With some luck the flow could even be reversed. The decision to appeal goes to show that Najib does not always have his say.

  14. UMNO supporters scrambling for the exit doors? If they do it is not to get out but for a breath of fresh air. A change in leadership may be in the offing and will not be led by Muhyiddin either.

  15. If you think Najib is bad wait till Mooyhideen takes over. I dread to think what will happen to Malaysia when Malay first Muslim second takes the helm. The Malay stronghold state of Johor better be prepared. The Sultan needs to beef up Johore Defence Forces. This Mooyhideen is one sly character. Look at his pictures and gestures. There’s a strange aura circling around somewhat like a bad karma or dark cloud hovering above. brrrrr give me the shivers everytime I see his picture.

  16. You’re wrong on that bro.

    The path to number one position has always been from the right of center with PM wannabes coming from its youth wing, leading the youth wing on right wing issues drumming the drums of narrow Malay nationalism as they climb the ladder. When they become PM they then soften their stand on the issues and become a moderate. You see Mahathir chastising the Malays for not living up to his expectation, even berating them. He got away with it because he did it from a position of strength. Now that he is not PM, he is back to drumming the drums of narrow Malay nationalism. The same thing happend with Tun Razak who some say engineered Tunku’s downfall. Hussein Onn was the exception.

    Muhyiddin once he gets to be PM will have to moderate his views so as to be acceptable to a wider cross section of the electorate. I hope he never gets to be. I hope UMNO loses the elections. But that is not going to happen.

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