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“May be no judicial interference, but what about the role of former AG?” – Ramasamy

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COMMENT BY PROF DR P.RAMASAMY,
DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG

May be no judicial interference, but what about the role of former AG

Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim seems to be convinced by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s explanation that the latter didn’t interfere in the judiciary in discharge of criminal charges against Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid obtained a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) from the Kuala Kumpur High Court from 47 criminal charges stemming from his misappropriation of funds from his Akalbudi foundation.

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It is the right of Hassan to have faith in Anwar. At the same time, Hassan in the larger interest of the public, wanted the former AG Idrus Harun and the even the present AG to explain to the public as what led to the discharge of criminal charges against Zahid.

Essentially, it is not the question of Anwar interfering with the judiciary that led to the discharge of charges against Zahid, but why and under what circumstances that Idrus presented a fait accompli proposal to the High Court judge for the discharge against Zahid.

Theoretically, upon further investigation by the MACC, if there is new evidence, Zahid could be charged again.

Understanding the larger political context of maintaining the unity government intact, it would be near impossible for Zahid to be charged again. There is little or no meaning attached to discharge without acquittal or with acquittal.

I understand that the Zahid’s defence lawyers will be submitting an appeal for the acquittal of Zahid.

While Zahid’s case attracted the much attention given Umno’s crucial support for the unity government, there have been other cases in the past where charges were dropped against the politicians in the country.

It serves no purpose to talk about separation of powers when the real issue is why Idrus decided to remove the charges against Zahid by the application of DNAA.

In respect to this, it would be more appropriate to ask the question whether there were behind the scene manoeuvres for the removal of charges against Zahid?

Or alternatively, whether there were unseen forces who managed to impress upon Idrus the need to drop the charges against Zahid in the political interest of the unity government.

It serves no purpose to say that Idrus was appointed by the former government of Muhyiddin Yassin and not the present government. But then, why Idrus was retained by the unity government in the first place?

What needs to be explained by Idrus as what necessitated the prosecution to advice the judge that the DNAA would be suffice for Zahid.

It is difficult to believe that Idrus came out with his own independent decision without factoring the political cost of instability and possibility of government collapse if Zahid was not given the DNAA.

Why did Idrus came out with this decision of DNAA when the matter was earlier decided by the court Zahid’s criminal charges had prima facie merit to them.

How come the presence of prima facie evidence against Zahid soon transformed into the dropping of the charges without acquittal. The insertion of the non acquittal clause was merely to make the court decision more palatable in the eyes of the public.

The decision by Idrus to drop the charges was great favour to the defence team, it went to show the distinction between the prosecution and the defence becomes blurred and foggy in high profile criminal cases.

I might agree with Hassan, there was no outright inference by Anwar in the judiciary. Here I am not taking of the hidden hands behind the judiciary, but about the questionable conduct of Idrus.

Some leaders have used the opportunity of Zahid’s discharge to raise questions about the need for separation of powers and the necessity to separate the functions of the AG and the public prosecutor. These are well and good, but how they are going to provide answers to the present Zahid’s imbroglio remains to be seen.

Questions of principles are important. However, there is no guarantee that political expediency might under different circumstances render null and void the idea of separation of powers. They are only good as along as politicians are willing to respect and honour the essence of democracy not the formal or institutional aspects.