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Lingam Tape – both praise and criticism for Tsu Koon who should show more backbone to tell Abdullah “the truth” to replace Haidar Panel with Royal Commission of Inquiry into rot of judiciary in past 19 years.
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday) : On his tenth day as the fifth Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made an electrifying call to Barisan Nasional leaders and members which came as a breath of fresh air, raising the hopes of 25 million Malaysians sky-high that the country was going to have a fully hands-on and people-oriented Prime Minister.
Speaking at the opening of the MIC branch chairmen convention on November 9, 2003, Abdullah told Barisan Nasional component party leaders and members to give him correct information to enable the government to respond appropriately to the people’s needs.
“Tell me the truth.”
“Sometimes people do not provide truthful information for fear that I will cry, worry or lose sleep over it. But as a leader, I have to know the truth.”
“If we (leaders) are not prepared to hear the truth, then we should not become leaders.”
Almost four years later yesterday, Abdullah made a similar call at the Gerakan National Delegates Conference, declaring:
“We do not want to pretend and say that everything is okay. We do not want
to be in a state of denial. Tell the truth, even if it is painful.”
However, this time the Prime Minister’s call to end the state of denial and face the truth is incapable of having any electrifying effect as it has all the stale air from the long catalogue of failed promises of the least hands-off Prime Minister in the nation’s history in the past four years to “hear the truth” and “walk the talk” to deliver political and government reforms.
Abdullah should himself end the very terminal state of denial of his four-year administration by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Tape scandal and the rot of the judiciary in the past 19 years since 1988 to demonstrate that he has the political will and courage to address the long-standing crisis of public confidence in the judiciary which has taken central stage following the revelation of the Lingam Tape.
The Haidar panel inquiry into the authenticity of the Lingam Tape must be disbanded immediately as it lacks the important attributes of independence and public confidence in comprising members who cannot act or be seen to be acting independently because of their past antecedents or present conflict-of-interest situations.
Last Wednesday, the Haider Inquiry Panel relished in its “power of the powerless” quandary, admitting to “Five No’s” - no power to administer oaths, no power to compel witnesses to come forward, no power to commit anybody for contempt, no immunity under the law and no power to protect witnesses.
Yet it had the temerity to demand that those with information should come forward as witnesses although the Panel could give them no protection whatsoever with one panel member, Datuk Mahadev Shanker, saying:
“Somebody out there (has) the original video. Does he have the responsibility (to come forward)? There may have been others who were there (during the incident). Have they got the responsibility?”
“If you don’t come, don’t complain, because at the end of the day, our report is based on the material made available to us.”
Mahadev seemed to have overlooked the vital fact that the inquiry into the truth of the Lingam Tape is not for the sake of the makers of the videotape or the whistleblowers but for the sake of the people and nation in having an impeccable system of justice with a judiciary whose independence, integrity and meritocracy cannot be doubted.
But has the three-man Inquiry Panel the powers even to receive witnesses? This is because the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said on the same day that the Panel could not call witnesses and was to depend on reports prepared by various agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Agency and the police.
Najib’s statement was reported by various media, including New Straits Times, Utusan Malaysia and Bernama. New Straits Times quoted Najib as follows:
“I already told them (the panel) of their terms of reference. They know about it and they are supposed to work within it. They are not supposed to call any witnesses.”
Gerakan Acting President Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon deserves both praise and criticism for his speech at the Gerakan national delegates conference that “If need be, a royal commission should be seriously considered” into the Lingam Tape scandal and the rot in the judiciary.
Praise because he has gone further than any other Barisan Nasional leader in asking the government to keep open the option of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, but criticism because of his continued state of denial that drastic steps are urgently needed to restore national and international confidence in the independence, integrity and meritocracy of the judiciary since the 1988 judicial crisis – which was openly admitted by former Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Shaik Daud Md. Ismail in an interview with Mingguan Malaysia today.
This is what Shaik Daud said:
“Tahun 1988 berlaku pencemaran yang besar dalam institusi kehakiman apabila Ketua Hakim Negara dipecat. Selepas itu, pemulihan berlaku sedikit demi sedikit. Semua orang berharap jabatan kehakiman boleh pulih semula. Tetapi timbul pula masalah ini. Dan kita kembali kepada asal. Usaha untuk mencuci, membersihkan imej ini sangat sukar.”
Tsu Koon should show more backbone and take up the invitation of Abdullah to Barisan Nasional leaders to “tell him the truth” that it is not ‘if need be” but “very necessary, urgently and immediately” to have a Royal Commission of Inquiry and to inform the Prime Minister the following: