P Ramakrishnan says it remains a mystery why the attorney general did not make the dropping of charges conditional or why he did not appeal the court decision.
On 22 May, when Riza Aziz was freed by the court, I posed this question, “Are the floodgates being opened for others to escape?”
On 9 June – 18 days later – I received the answer, very starkly. “Musa Aman freed of corruption, money laundering charges.”
My next question was, “Who will go free after this?”
In the case of Riza Aziz, Tommy Thomas, the former Attorney General (AG), was cited as having “agreed in principle” to the release of Riza which he vehemently denied without being refuted.
In the second case involving Musa Aman, another former AG, Abdul Gani Patail, was apparently the deciding factor in allowing Musa to go free. We are told the retired attorney general – supposedly on health grounds – had submitted an affidavit which aided Musa to be acquitted fully.
The layman in me wondered whether we have any more AGs left to play a role in securing the freedom for anyone else. What comes to mind is yet another former retired AG, Mohamed Apandi Ali, who unbelievably, yes incredibly, cleared the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak, of any wrongdoing in the 1MDB scandal. Najib is currently on trial for a series of corruption cases.
In the latest development, Najib has already moved to disqualify Gopal Sri Ram as a special prosecutor, claiming that Sri Ram’s involvement in the prosecution of Najib “affects the integrity of the trial process”. In the instance when the integrity of Najib is seriously in question, how could the integrity of the trial process be affected – only God knows?
I thought that there is a saying that a depraved person cannot be depraved further!
(Sri Ram is only prosecuting – not deciding on the outcome of the case. That is the job for the judge. If he succeeds in convincing the judge that Najib is guilty, it only means either the defence could not demolish Sri Ram’s case or there is very little in terms of Najib’s defence to save his skin. It is as simple as that!)
This absurd claim about the integrity of the judicial process being compromised was based on the sudden revelation by Apandi that “Sri Ram had tried to coax him to play a role to arrest Najib” when he was still Prime Minister in January 2018 and Apandi was the AG.
Does this foretell that yet another culprit is set to walk away free? We will know soon!
But let’s take a critical look at the way Musa Aman was freed – in spite of facing 46 charges.
On 9 June 2020 the deputy public prosecutor, during case mention, informed High Court Judge Muhammad Jamil Hussin that the prosecution was withdrawing all the 46 corruption and money-laundering charges against Musa relating to timber concessions in the state. At this juncture, no reason was mentioned or reported for dropping the charges.
Going by the report, we were in the dark about the judge’s reaction. We didn’t know whether he asked the prosecution why the charges were being withdrawn. One would think that it would be the natural thing to do. But the news report did not state so.
We are baffled why Musa was acquitted – and not discharged not amounting to an acquittal. An acquittal is an exoneration. We understand that this decision was the sole discretion of the judge. But the implication is disturbing. It means even if fresh evidence was to surface or new witnesses were to testify against Musa, he cannot be charged on all or any one of the 46 charges. The door has been shut permanently! Why?
If he was discharged not amounting to an acquittal, would Musa have suffered any miscarriage of justice? Wouldn’t that have served justice better? If no further evidence is unearthed and no new witness testifies, Musa would still be free! When the door is permanently shut, it is justice that falls victim which is not in the best interest of the country or the judicial process.
Someone suggested that perhaps the prosecution should appeal against this decision and ask for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal. If this is legally possible, then the new AG should take action to safeguard the interest of justice. Musa will still be free if no fresh evidence surfaces. It would be a prudent action to take if we are serious about curbing corruption in high places.
Let’s be clear: Musa was not declared innocent by the judge of all the charges that were filed against him. That would require a trial and a decision following that. He was not tried at all. He wasn’t cleared of the charges at the end of the trial. The trial did not take place – it was aborted.
Why the AG did not make it conditional for dropping the charges or why he did not appeal the court decision remains a disturbing mystery!
There is no comfort in the saying, “Don’t blame people for disappointing you. Blame yourself for expecting too much.”