Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Penang on Saturday, 22nd August 2009:
First thing Najib should do on his return from his first 8-day leave after become PM is to save the soul of his premiership and do what no Umno leader dare to contemplate – withdraw Rohaizat as Umno candidate in by-election
The first thing Datuk Seri Najib Razak should do on his return from his first eight-day leave after becoming Prime Minister is to save the soul of his premiership and do what no Umno leader had dared to contemplate – withdraw Rohaizat Othman as their candidate in the Permatang Pasir by-election.
There can be no dispute that Rohaizat had not been honest and truthful with the Umno and Barisan Nasional leaderships and the 20,290 voters of Permatang Pasir about his being struck off the lawyers’ rolls.
How can a government which claims to give top priority to integrity and the fight against corruption and all forms of misuse of power put up as candidate a lawyer who had been struck off the lawyers’ rolls by the Bar Council for “breach of trust, dishonesty, shown gross disregard of client’s interests” which was “tantamount to a conduct unbefitting that of an advocate and solicitor which conduct as such brings the legal profession into disrepute”?
I am quoting the findings of the Disciplinary Committee of the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board and it is on these findings that the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board Chairman Tan Sri Khalid Ahmad issued an order on 7th March 2008 striking off Rohaizat from the lawyers’s roll. The Disciplinary Board’s decision was upheld by the High Court as Rohaizat’s appeal was rejected.
The issue in the by-election is now bigger than the personal issue of the suitability of Rohaizat’s candidature as it now concerns the integrity of all the Barisan Nasional leaders and component parties whether they are prepared to take a principled stand on what is right – that a person who is struck off the lawyers’ rolls for breach of trust, dishonesty and gross neglect of his professional duties is not fit to be considered to be a candidate for any elective office, let alone being elected as State Assemblyman or Member of Parliament.
It also affects the soul of the Najib premiership and administration.
Umno leaders, including the Deputy Prime Minister and Umno Deputy President, have done themselves, Umno and BN a great disservice in trying to defend the indefensible over Rohaizat’s candidature.
I lean towards believing that the Umno leadership were not fully aware of the full details of Rohaizat being struck off the lawyers’ rolls, but once the details are out in the public domain, they should have taken a public stand to disown Rohaizat and ask him to withdraw as a candidate.
Instead, Muhyiddin added insult to injury in blind and unthinking defence of Rohaizat, including make a most astounding statement as reported by Malaysiakini in its report “DPM now jumps to Rohaizat’s defence” on August 19, 2009 where he “slammed” the Bar Council for having “a hidden agenda” in clarifying Rohaizat’s status, even casting aspersion on the Bar Council’s integrity in making the uncalled-for suggestion that the Bar Council should be non-partisan in taking disciplinary actions.
But what takes the cake is this quote from Muhyiddin in the Malaysiakini report:
Saying that Rohaizat had explained to him that he was struck off from the rolls when he could not attend the disciplinary hearing on his case last March, Muhyiddin said:
“This is not a case of breach of trust…it’s just that his licence had been revoked.”
What simple-mindedness, as if a lawyer could be struck off the rolls over mundane and inconsequential matters like blurping, oversleeping or unpunctuality.
And how come despite days after the nomination, it just does not sink in to Muhyiddin that it was precisely because of breach of trust that Rohaizat was struck off the rolls?
So far only two from Umno have spoken out against Rohaizat’s candidature.
The first is Tengku Razaleigh who asked:
"Is Umno so short of people that we have to find a lawyer disbarred for financial dishonesty to stand? Has financial misconduct become so common among us that we no longer see it as a factor in a candidate's suitability?"
The second is former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir who has likened Rohaisat’s candidature to Barisan Nasional self-sabotage.
Only Najib can now redeem the soul of his premiership, Umno and BN – and there is only one way to do it, by withdrawing Rohaizat as the Umno/BN candidate in the Permatang Pasir by-election.
There are no two ways about it.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor