By: Our Correspondent

In the wake of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last week raising explosive questions about who was responsible for the 2006 murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, Americk Sidhu, a senior lawyer in Kuala Lumpur, issued a public letter to Asia Sentinel and other media, saying for the “the first time in 34 years I have actually found myself in agreement” with the former premier. He added questions of his own.

Altantuya, a 28-year-old jet-setting beauty with expensive tastes, was murdered on Oct. 18, 2006.  Two of the bodyguards of now-Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak were convicted of her murder in a trial that seemed rigged to make sure no questions would be asked about who agreed to pay the killers RM50,000 to RM100,000 to kill her.  Musa Safri, then Najib’s aide de camp, has been identified as the person who sent the two to pick her up.

Altantuya played a minor role in the purchase of Scorpene submarines from the French defense contractor DCN that resulted in a €114.9 million bribe being steered to the United Malays National Organization and an additional €36 million that was steered to Abdul Razak Baginda, a prominent security analyst through whose company the kickback was steered and who later jilted her. In a letter found after her death, she admitted that she was attempting to blackmail Razak Baginda for US$500,000. Although her role may have been minor, she and Razak Baginda embarked on a whirlwind tour of Europe at the end of the transaction during which she presumably gained some idea of the dimensions of the scandal.

Sensible Questions

The questions Mahathir was asking ”make sense,” Sidhu wrote, although Najib has put on a full-court press, with allies attacking Mahathir and issuing statements of full support for the premier. The government has also tabled “anti-terrorism” legislation that would allow suspects to be detained for 21 days solely on the word of a police inspector, extendable for an additional 38 days during which the suspect is not permitted access to counsel. Critics of the government fear the act could be used against them.

“These are the same questions a very large portion of the Malaysian population has been asking for over eight years now,” he said “Khalid Abu Bakar, the inspector-general of police has been performing backward somersaults trying to avoid the entire issue of the woman’s death.”

Khalid “has even had the audacity to threaten [which he is very good at] anyone who dares to bring up the issue of ‘motive’ in the grisly murder of an innocent female foreign national at the hands of two of Malaysia’s best trained commandos.

“The excuse Khalid has given is that the Federal Court has made a decision and any questioning of the reasons behind that decision would be tantamount to contempt of court. What Khalid has failed miserably to appreciate is the fact that no one is ‘questioning’ that decision. Everyone agrees the decision is correct.”

‘Motive’ Never Asked

However, Sidhu wrote, “it is the question of motive which has never been addressed in any of the three courts this murder trial has progressed through. In fact, evidence in respect of motive was never tendered by the prosecution. Therefore, as far as I [and Mahathir] are concerned, it is still open season on motive.”

Sirul Azhar Umar, one of the two convicted murderers, is now in a Sydney detention facility. After being freed by an appellate court, he fled to Australia rather than wait around for a verdict from the Federal Court, which later reversed the appellate court decision and declared the two guilty. He has since issued a statement to the online independent news site Malaysiakini saying the two killed the woman “on orders.”

Khalid issued a statement saying Malaysian police officers had flown to Australia to interrogate the onetime police corporal, only to have Sirul issue another declaration to Malaysiakini that he had not met with police or been been interrogated.

Sidhu in his open letter demanded that Khalid release the names of those officers who ostensibly questioned Sirul and the exact date and time they visited the detention center. “Inspector Tonny Luggan [the investigating officer in Altantuya’s case] says he was not sent to see Sirul in Sydney, so who was?”

Khalid is also reported to have said, “Sirul’s remark showed the fugitive was doing his utmost to bring disrepute and cast doubt over the investigations into the murder case, his involvement and the criminal justice system.”

“Yes.” Sidhu said. “That is correct, because it is obvious to everyone that your investigations are incomplete.

“As the current series of events appear to translate, Sirul is not disputing his involvement in the murder. All he is saying is that others were involved and they haven’t been brought to book so why should he take the rap? One need not have successfully completed an in-depth course in criminal investigation at Pulapol [Malaysia’s Police Training Center] to be able to decipher the glaring holes in this entire saga.