“There may be no judicial interference, what about the role of the former AG?”

PASIR Gudang MP Hassan Karim seems to be convinced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s explanation that the latter didn’t interfere in the judiciary in the discharge of criminal charges against UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.Zahid obtained a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) from the Kuala Kumpur High Court on 47 criminal charges stemming from his misappropriation of funds from his Akalbudi foundation.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 attorney-general (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun and even the present AG to explain to the public 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 Idrus presented a fait accompli proposal to the High Court judge for the discharge against Zahid.Theoretically, upon further investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (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 Zahid’s defence lawyers will be submitting an appeal for his acquittal.While Zahid’s case attracted much attention given UMNO’s crucial support for the unity government, there have been other cases in the past where charges were dropped against 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 through 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 Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and not the present government. But then, why was Idrus retained by the unity government in the first place?What needs to be explained by Idrus is what necessitated the prosecution to advise the judge that the DNAA would suffice for Zahid.It is difficult to believe that Idrus came out with his own independent decision without factoring in the political cost of instability and the possibility of government collapse if Zahid was not given the DNAA.Why did Idrus come out with this decision of the 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 an acquittal? The insertion of the non-acquittal clause was merely to make the court’s decision more palatable in the eyes of the public.The decision by Idrus to drop the charges was a great favour to the defence team; it went to show that 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 talking about 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 all well and good but how they are going to provide answers to the present Zahid’s imbroglio remains to be seen.Questions of principle 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 long as politicians are willing to respect and honour the essence of democracy, not the formal or institutional aspects. – Sept 15, 2023


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He is also the former deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main photo credit: Bernama

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