Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 18th August 2009:
Rohaizat should honourably withdraw as a candidate in the Permatang Pasir by-election so as not to continue to cause public embarrassment to Umno and Barisan Nasional for having misled them about the actual reasons of his disbarment by the Bar Council from practicing as a lawyer
The first question that must be asked right from the beginning of the Permatang Pasir by-election is whether the voters can trust a candidate who could even mislead his own political party about his disbarment by the Bar Council from practicing as a lawyer?
Various explanations have been given by Umno and Barisan Nasional leaders about the Umno/BN candidate Rohaizat Othman being struck off the rolls by the Bar Council and the revocation of his practicing licence as a lawyer.
Umno vice president and Penang Umno liaison chief Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said Rohaizat’s licence was revoked in 2003 following problems incurred by the former partner in the legal firm.
“The Bar Council’s decision must be respected by the lawyers registered under it. Legally, Rohaizat is probably innocent, but morally, it can be questioned by his opponents.” (The Sun 17.8.09)
The New Straits Times of the same day also reported Zahid’s defence of Rohaizat as follows:
Yesterday at the nomination centre, Deputy Prime Minister and Umno Deputy President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin alleged that Rohaizat was the target of “character assassination” and “chided the Opposition for stirring up controversy” over Rohaizat’s credibility.
But the facts are completely different from what Rohaizat and the Umno leaders have owned up to as the true reasons why the Umno candidate was struck off the rolls by the Bar Council.
The Sun today reported:
If the Bar Council chairman is right, and there is no reason to think otherwise, then Rohaizat has compounded his offence which had led to his disbarment by the Bar Council by misleading Umno leaders about the circumstances of his disbarment.
I believe that Umno leaders like Muhyiddin and Zahid had been misled by Rohaizat and did not know the actual circumstances resulting in Rohaizat’s disbarment, although they should have done a thorough check.
The Umno leadership, which is not short of lawyers, should have known that lawyers do not get struck off the rolls for minor misdemeanours when Section 94 (2) of the Legal Profession Act, 1976 clearly provides that lawyers are struck off the rolls for “misconduct”, which is defined as "conduct or omission to act in Malaysia or elsewhere by an advocate and solicitor in a professional capacity or otherwise which amounts to grave impropriety” and includes:
If Rohaizat can even mislead Umno and BN about the circumstances of his disbarment as a practising lawyer by the Bar Council, causing Muhyiddin and Zahid to publicly embarrass themselves and Umno in coming to his defence on completely ridiculous grounds, can he be trusted by the Permatang Pasir voters as to deserve their vote to become their State Assemblyman?
Muhyiddin and Zahid need to resolve the Rohaizat problem swiftly and boldly, so that the integrity problem of Rohaizat is not expanded to become the integrity problems of Muhyiddin, Zahid, Umno and Barisan Nasional leaderships.
The most honourable solution under the circumstances is for the UMNO and Barisan Nasional leadership to withdraw Rohaizat as candidate, which can still be done by Thursday, and concede the PAS/Pakatan Rakyat candidate, Mohd Salleh Man Mat Aji a walkover.
Otherwise, the central issue of the Permatang Pasir by-election is not only going to be about the integrity of Rohaizat but that of Zahid, Muhyiddin, Umno and Barisan Nasional leaderships as well.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor