Altantuya: For God’s sake, why and who?

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Graphic: freemalaysiatoday

The passing of the death sentence on the murderers of the pregnant, innocent Altantuya did not end the torrid tale of a horrendous murder.

Mongolian fashion model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, who was murdered in Malaysia in 2006 amid allegations of bribery, backmail, treachery and cover-up. Photo: Asia Sentinel
Mongolian fashion model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, who was murdered in Malaysia in 2006 amid allegations of bribery, backmail, treachery and cover-up. Photo: Asia Sentinel

If anything, it raised more persistent questions as to why and who actually wanted her dead.

Those – other than the two condemned men – really responsible for this gruesome and grisly crime would have rejoiced that the death penalty imposed on the two condemned men would have brought a closure to this brutal murder of a foreign national. With their deaths, the hidden hands responsible for her death must have thought the truth would be buried for eternity.

But there will be no closure until and unless evidence is adduced to expose those responsible for her death. The condemned men were merely the front men for those who wanted Altantuya dead. They were the hired killers. It is crucial to know why Altantuya paid for with her life.

Why was she murdered?

This question will hound Malaysia and the Malaysian judiciary until the truth is established.

Sirul and Azilah had no cause to kill Altantuya. They had no personal reason or grudge whatsoever to kill her. She had no dealings with them. She was no threat to them. She did not cheat them or betray them. She did not provoke them to commit this ghastly murder.

Then why was this foul deed committed?

To answer this question, we need to know the motive. What was the motive?

Although we accept that motive is not relevant for guilt to be determined since the law requires proof beyond reasonable doubt of only the actus reus (the guilty act) and the mens rea (the guilty mind), the Altantuya murder is very different.

The case took on a complexion of its own when Sirul said in court that he was offered RM100,000 to commit murder. Once that was disclosed, wouldn’t it be natural for the judge to ask, “Who offered you the money?”

An answer to that question, once posed by the judge, would have led the court to establish the veracity of Sirul’s answer. Once that was established, it was just a question of issuing a subpoena for that person or those persons and the motives could have been ascertained, exposing those responsible for wanting her dead.

If the trial was to establish the truth, nothing but the truth, wouldn’t this line of questioning be relevant and pertinent? This approach is all the more reinforced when Sirul said that he was made a scapegoat. In short, it would have honed or blunted Sirul’s credibility. Shouldn’t the judge have asked Sirul who made him a scapegoat and then put that person(s) on the witness stand to determine who was telling the truth?

Of course, the contrary view is that such judicial questions have no place in our common law system which embraces an adversarial approach and can only find its place in the continental or civil law system incorporating the inquisitorial approach.

Be that as it may, if indeed Sirul was offered RM100,000 – that’s what he claimed in his affidavit – and if that was the reason for the murder, then Sirul and Azilah became hired killers. It was such a huge sum and a tantalising offer to commit murder. They did not murder for their own sake but were engaged to do this foul deed.

Those people who wanted her dead must have been desperate to put her away for reasons best known only to themselves.

Who, as it were, put the ‘gun’ in their hands? Someone did. The killers merely pulled the trigger but the ‘gun’ was placed in their hands by some desperadoes by making this tempting offer. That person must obviously be wealthy. Who made this offer? Why did this unknown and unrevealed person/s want Altantuya put away for good?

Four names keep cropping up in connection with this foul murder: Razak Baginda, Najib’s confidante; Musa Safri, Najib’s aide-de-camp; and Sirul Azahar and Azilah Hadri, Najib’s bodyguards. It is incredulous that all these people who were close to Najib in their various capacities were somehow associated with Altantuya’s case.

It is this association that is responsible for all the speculation swirling around, which must be probed thoroughly. To dispel any speculations why these people from the PM’s Department were involved, there must be a thorough investigation. Why would these elite police personnel from the Special Action Unit in the PM’s Department be so directly involved in saving Baginda’s neck?

There were also other names that got entangled with the Altantuya’s case as well. Najib’s brothers, former stockbroker Datuk Mohamed Nizam Razak and architect Datuk Mohamed Nazim Razak, and Najib’s wife, Rosmah together with Deepak the carpet dealer and allegedly a good friend of Rosmah. All these people were implicated in P I Bala’s first Statutory Declaration. Subsequently, according to Bala, he was induced to withdraw all references and inferences to Najib in his second Statutory Declaration and paid to leave the country with his family.

Najib was never mentioned with the murder of Altantuya. But why were these steps necessary to hush up the matter? These were deliberate attempts to disassociate Najib from any suspicion of involvement with Altantuya.

Altantuya’s cousin Burmaa Oyunchime, while on the witness stand, wanted to submit a photograph taken in Paris at a restaurant which had the image of a very important person together with Altantuya and Baginda. Unfortunately the judge told her to submit the photo later but did not follow up on the offer. She was not asked to produce this photograph later on. Why was this evidence, as claimed by some, suppressed? Was there a deliberate attempt to protect someone?

Then there was the disclosure that immigration records were obliterated to cover up her presence in Malaysia. This action was meant to establish evidence that Altantuya never entered Malaysia. It was well planned so that there would be no trace of Altantuya ever coming to Malaysia.

The Immigration Department had no reason to wipe out this record. It must have been done at the behest of someone powerful from higher up. Who was this person and what was his interest in this matter? The answer to this question would have unravelled the mystery as to who instructed who to obliterate the immigration records of Altantuya and her friends.

The plan, it would seem, was to establish the fact that Altantuya never came to Malaysia. And by killing and blowing her body to smithereens, there would be no trace whatsoever that she was actually in Malaysia.

Sirul had also pleaded with the judge not to impose the death sentence on him, saying: “I am the black sheep who has to be sacrificed to protect unnamed people.” This was an open admission of the existence of a plot hatched by mysterious personages to kill Altantuya. Was Sirul asked to divulge who these ‘unnamed people’ were?

Azilah’s counsel at that time, Zulkifli Noordin, mentioned that Azilah “felt that he had been betrayed”, and that as a member of the elite UTK security unit, “Azilah would not issue an order to his subordinate if he didn’t receive orders from the higher-ups”.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Zulkifli as saying, “My client is a senior-ranking officer in the special unit of the police, and he has always acted on instructions – including in this case.”

Clearly there were other unseen hands pulling the strings. Azilah was merely a conduit who was passing on instructions received from higher-ups. Who were these superior officers?

Then Zulkifli resigned in a huff as defence attorney because he said there were attempts to interfere with the defence he had proposed. The reason for the interference and pressure, he said, was “to protect a third party”.

To add further to suspicions, the presiding judge was suddenly and inexplicably removed before the trial started. It can be claimed that it was the prerogative of the bench to do so, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth and fuels all sorts of speculations.

It is so obvious that there were so many opportunities to get to the bottom of this heinous murder, but these opportunities were never taken advantage of. Why?

The police, the AG’s Chambers and the judiciary failed to expose the hidden hands of the puppeteers mainly responsible for the death of Altantuya. It would appear that the truth will not be unearthed.

This is why we need a Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the brutal murder of Altantuya with the hope that the truth will prevail. A man of honour and integrity should lead this commission.

In the case of Anwar Ibrahim’s assault in detention, the police and the then PM concocted lies to explain that Anwar inflicted injury on himself. It was the Royal Commission of Inquiry that exposed the former IGP as the coward who assaulted the handcuffed Anwar.

Likewise, a similar chairman may help to establish the truth and expose the real culprits behind the murder. Until the setting up of such a commission, Sirul must be kept alive because he is privy to a lot of confidential information that can and will solve the mystery of Altantuya’s murder and expose those responsible for this dastardly murder.

A government which is not afraid of the truth will facilitate the setting up of the commission.

P Ramakrishnan
Aliran executive committee member
6 February 2015

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When it was realised she was missing on 19 October 2006, her cousin lodged a police report and sought help from the Mongolian embassy in Bangkok. The Malaysian police found fragments of bone, later verified as hers, in forested land near the Subang Dam in Puncak Alam, Shah Alam. Police investigation of her remains revealed that she was shot twice before C-4 explosives were used on her remains, although there has been later suggestion that the C-4 explosives may have killed her. When her remains were found their identity could only be confirmed with a DNA test. The provenance of the C-4 remains unclear.[1] Unit Tindakan Khas, to which Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar had belonged Members of the police force were arrested during the murder investigation. The two murder suspects have been named as Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 30 and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 35. They had been members of the elite Unit Tindakan Khas (the Malaysian Police Special Action Force or counter-terrorism unit) and were both assigned to the office of the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, albeit as bodyguards, who was also… Read more »