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RM5.5 million �Freedom for Sale� scandal has surfaced another equally big  scandal �having an Internal Security Minister only in name while the Deputy Internal Security is the de facto Minister exercising all the EO powers including signing detention orders

Media Statement (2)    
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Tuesday) : The RM5.5 million �freedom for sale� allegations have ballooned out to become a major scandal of the Abdullah premiership, affecting the efficiency, professionalism and integrity not only of the police and the Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Mohd Johari Baharom but also the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who is also the Internal Security Minister.

This scandal should not have happened if the 125 recommendations of the  Royal Police Commission to establish an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service had been taken seriously by the Prime Minister, Cabinet and the Police and the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) been set up and running.

Malaysians are shocked by the revelations by the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan and Johari in their attempt to blame the other party for the RM5.5 million �freedom for sale� scandal.

Subsequent attempts by both of them to retract or clarify their statements have failed to minimize the damage of their earlier utterances which constitute damning evidence that something is very rotten with the  administration of justice and the upholding of law and order in the country.

In his clarification yesterday on his Sunday interview where he admitted that he was the target of the RM5 million �freedom for sale� allegations posted on the Internet, Johari said the opinion of the legal adviser or ministry official is sought in cases where the Advisory Board recommends a release or suspension of detention order under the Emergency Ordinance (EO).

Their opinion is for the sake of obtaining the grounds to be applied by the Advisory Board in its recommendation for a release or suspension of detention order, he said.

This clarification was necessary as Johari had accused the police of being sloppy, slipshod and using the EO as �a shortcut to detain suspects who have insufficient incriminating evidence against them�, conveying the picture that as the Deputy Minister, he was the bulwark standing up for the fundamental rights of the detained suspects  and a check on the abuses and misuses of power by the police. 

Johari gave the example of the 48 EO detention cases from Simpang Rengam detention centre  which went before the Advisory Board last month,  resulting in the release of 31 and 17 placed under restricted residence.

If the police had been sloppy and slipshod in EO detentions, as in the case of the 48 EO cases last month,  Johari cannot disclaim responsibility as he was the one who exercised the ministerial authority to sign and order their formal detention.

Furthermore, the Advisory Board has no powers to order the release or substitution of restricted residence for any EO detainee, but like Internal Security Act cases, only the power to make recommendations � and the Advisory Board�s recommendation whether ISA or EO is not automatically accepted.

How could such a mistaken impression be conveyed � is it the fault of Johari or the reporters? I have studied the transcript of Johari�s interview on Sunday and there can be no doubt that reporters did not make any mistake in correctly  reporting what Johari had said.  Either Johari had deliberately made a misrepresentation of the division of responsibilities and powers under EO, or he himself did not fully understand the respective allocation of powers and responsibilities under EO.

What is most damaging are other allegations made by Johari about the sloppy, slipshod and most unprofessional manner of the police in carrying out their great powers under the EO � such as late submission of files to him for the formal detention under EO and the police release of detainees under Section 3(1) of EO without informing the ministry.

What the IGP did is even  more stunning, making a bald denial that he had made a statement as published in yesterday�s  Utusan Malaysia front-page lead story, �Saya mahu BPR siasat Johari�.

In a statement published only by Bernama, Musa said he had neither been interviewed nor had he issued a statement as published.

Utusan Malaysia story, by-lined Ruhaidini Abd. Kadir,  had reported that Musa had said he did not want to enter into a polemic with Mohd Johari over a claim that the police fail to provide sufficient evidence and do not investigate properly criminals referred to under the Emergency Ordinance.

Musa was reported to have called for a fair investigation to be conducted by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to determine who was right and wrong in the allegation that Johari received RM5 million bribes for releasing criminal suspects under the Emergency Ordinance.

Who to believe � the Utusan Malaysia journalist Ruhaidini Abd. Kadir or IGP Musa?

I would tend to believe  Rahaidini for two reasons:

Firstly, the Utusan Malaysia front-page report yesterday carried a Q & A transcript of the interview with Musa � something which could not be concocted from thin air.

Secondly, if Rahaidini had concocted the interview in yesterday�s Utusan Malaysia, Musa should have declared him a �persona non grata� and ban him from all police interviews and contacts.

But no, Musa continued to entertain Rahaidini, resulting in another front-page by-line story in the Utusan Malaysia, �Polis siasat suspek � Kenal pasti tahan bawah Ordinan Darurat boleh bebas � Musa�.

Musa and Johari may have been forced to publicly �smoke the peace-pipe� but public interests require that the grave questions and allegations  which each had hurled against the other party be given full and satisfactory answer instead of being swept under the carpet.

The RM5.5 million �Freedom for Sale� scandal has the unintended consequence of surfacing another equally big scandal � that the country has an Internal Security Minister only in name while Johari as the Deputy Internal Security is the de facto Minister exercising all the EO powers including signing or ordering formal detentions without trial for criminal suspects.

The practice of the deputy minister exercising Ministerial powers is meant to be the exception and not the rule, but here, we have the exception becoming the rule.  We have Johari the Deputy Internal Security Minister exercising all the Ministerial powers under the EO with regarding to detention of  criminal suspects without trial, because Prime Minister Abdullah is the �absentee� Internal Security Minister as well as �absentee� Finance Minister.

This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs and must not be allowed to continue. As Abdullah is unable to be a hands-on Minister in both Ministries, he must decide to relinquish one of them not only to be a model for the entire Cabinet, but to be fair to the country and people.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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