Bringing Najib to Malaysia’s Witness Stand

Unless Malaysia’s
political opposition, it’s questionable if justice will be done

It is becoming
increasingly likely that Malaysian Deputy Premier Najib Tun Razak is
never going to have to face hostile questioning in the murder case of
Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu. A motion to bring him to
court was thrown out by the court when it resumed session on July 23
to hear the summary of both prosecution and defense after the
prosecution wrapped up its case a month ago.

One of Najib’s
closest friends and two of his personal bodyguards have been standing
trial for more than a year for the October 2006 murder of the
28-year-old woman, with crucial evidence being ignored time after
time by both defense and prosecution. How is it that both–
traditional protagonists in a criminal trial – strangely stood
on the same front to block the emergence of this new evidence, which
could potentially alter the entire configuration of this murder case?

In rejecting the
application by the lawyer representing Altantuya’s family and
the Mongolian government – Karpal Singh – to re-open the
prosecution case to hear this new evidence, the presiding judge Mohd
Zaki Yasin said that “the court will only exercise its
discretional right to call for any witness when the need arises”.

But the court is
already on the brink of deciding whether there is prima facie case,
so if this is not the right time to hear this vital piece of new
evidence, then what is?  After the accused are discharged for
lack of prima facie evidence?

The latter scenario is
not entirely far-fetched, considering that the only hard evidence –
the confession of the second accused – had already been thrown
out by the court at the early stage of the trial and the court has
been drifting directionlessly for 14 months without a compelling
motive and without revealing the authority that prompted the first
two accused (who were Najib’s bodyguards) to commit their act.

This is where the new
evidence – a statutory declaration by private investigator P.
Balasubramaniam revealing astounding intimate details – is
considered to have come in at the nick of time to prevent a major
miscarriage of justice by casting an important new light on the case.

In fact, it was this
desire to see justice done that prompted Bala to present his
affidavit at this juncture.  Bala was alarmed that the court was
about to hear the summary, and yet vital information he had furnished
earlier to the police implicating Najib had not surfaced in court. 
This might therefore result in the court dismissing the case without
calling for the defense, thereby exempting the first two accused from
swearing on oath to reveal who ordered them to do what.

Through his affidavit,
Bala has brought in a new player – Najib.  Allegedly,
Najib was the original lover of Altantuya, who was reportedly passed
on to best friend Abdul Razak Baginda (the third accused) when Najib
wanted to keep a distance from Altantuya upon becoming the deputy
premier.  Then in October 2006, Altantuya arrived in Malaysia to
press Razak for the payment of US$500,000 as alleged commission for
services rendered in the submarine deal in Paris.  Bala was
engaged to fend off Altantuya.

When Altantuya’s
harassment got out of hand, Najib’s aide-camp Musa Safri sent
the second accused to meet Razak for the first and only time one day
before the murder to overcome Altantuya’s harassment.  The
rest is history.

It is important to note
that Bala was engaged to protect Razak and his family from
Altantuya’s harassment on an around-the-clock basis for periods
preceding and after the disappearance of Altantuya, during which
periods Bala was privy to many intimate details as well as witness to
many occurrences surrounding the main players.  His affidavit
was a conscientious account of what he saw and heard over events that
actually transpired.  It is hence totally unjustified for the
court to reject Bala’s affidavit on the ground that it was
“hearsay.”  In fact, Bala’s affidavit
contained many important direct evidences, such as:

  • Altantuya’s demand for her alleged commission of US$500,000 at
    the Brickfields police station on 14 Oct 2006.

  • On the night of
    murder on 19 Oct 2006, Bala witnessed the first two accused and
    lance corporal Rohaniza taking Altantuya away in a red Proton
    Aeroback in front of Razak’s house.

  • On the day of
    Razak’s arrest, Bala was with Razak in the office of Razak’s
    lawyer at 6:30 am.  Razak said he sent Najib an SMS the night
    before as he refused to believe he was to be arrested, but he did
    not receive a reply.  Then at 7:30 am, Razak received an SMS
    from Najib and showed the message to Bala and the lawyer.  The
    message read: “I am seeing IGP at 11 am today ……matter
    will be resolved… cool”.

  • During his
    seven-day detention (after the arrest of Razak), Bala told the
    police all he knew including everything Razak and Altantuya told him
    about their relationship with Najib, but when he came to sign the
    statement, all parts relating to Najib had been obliterated.

will be seen that Bala’s affidavit contains evidences of
perversion of justice as well as valuable missing links which should
let the truth emerge in an otherwise muddled case. 

The government’s
response to this affidavit has been most disappointing.  It not
only failed to set up an independent panel to probe the contents
therein as required in any country with rule of law, but not even the
police or the prosecutors have shown any seriousness to investigate
these alarming revelations.  And now the latest, a flat
rejection by the court to entertain Karpal’s motion through
concerted objection by all participating legal officers who have
sworn to uphold the law – prosecutors, defence lawyers and the

That makes us wonder:
Is the primary objective of the court to seek truth and serve justice
or is it to protect criminals who happen to be persons of power and
influence?  If it is the former, shouldn’t the court have
at least postponed the hearing of the summary pending investigations
of the affidavit, however slow the investigations may be?   

Or the court could, for
instance, also call the father of Abdul Razak Baginda, who asked his
son in court several months ago to “tell the truth,” only
to be greeted by a near-hysterical outburst from Abdul Razak. What
truth did Abdul Razak’s father seek?

By bulldozing the case
forward with complete disregard to alarming signals that justice
might have been transgressed in such an internationally inflammatory
case is to expose Malaysia to new depth of international disrepute of
our already wretched justice system.

And for the family of
the victim who was slain in the cruelest fashion, and then blown up
with plastic explosive, what can they do other than to continue to
weep in silence?


Kim Quek regularly
comments on Malaysian politics and other affairs

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