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Lingam Tape – why Abdullah threatening one-sided dire consequences if video clip not authentic but said nothing about action to be taken if it is proven true?
(Parliament, Saturday): The initial one-sided response of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the Lingam Tape, which has plunged the country into a new crisis of confidence in the independence, impartiality, integrity, accountability and professionalism of the Malaysian judiciary – both national and international – is a great disappointment compromising the neutrality and impartiality of his high office.
Abdullah said yesterday that he had directed the police to immediately start investigations into the Lingam Tape as it was important to act quickly because the content of the clip could tarnish the image of the country’s judiciary.
He said: “We cannot treat this lightly. We will act fast to determine the truth.”
He said that if investigations revealed that the claims were false, action would be taken against those who were trying to undermine the judiciary as the video recording would invoke public anger and hatred towards the judiciary.
He said at this juncture, the question of setting up a Commission of Inquiry did not arise as the allegations in the video clip had yet to be proven as authentic.
All right-thinking Malaysians are mystified and upset by the Prime Minister’s response and have one question – why is Abdullah threatening dire consequences if the Lingam Tape is not authentic but said nothing about action to be taken if it is proven true?
Abdullah’s initial considered response 48 hours after the public surfacing of the Lingam Tape does not inspire public confidence that the Prime Minister would rise above the fray and be absolutely neutral and impartial in handling the latest scandal of the Malaysian judiciary.
He is right when he said that the Lingam Tape has yet to be proven as authentic, but on the other hand, 48 hours and now 72 hours have passed since its public disclosure had elapsed and its authenticity has not been challenged – neither by Lingam nor Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, purportedly the other party in the telephone conversation recorded in the Lingam Tape.
The Prime Minister’s reaction is only valid and justifiable if he had received intimation from Fairuz denying the authenticity of the Lingam Tape as without such a denial from either Lingam or Ahmad Fairuz, Abdullah risks compromising his high office in staking a position which gave full status quo backing to the Chief Justice.
Two weeks ago, the Chief Justice announced that he had written to the Prime Minister about the Federal Court judge who has not written his grounds of judgment in 35 cases when he was High Court Judge.
Isn’t it even more important that Ahmad Fairuz should make clear to the Prime Minister and the country any denial about the authenticity of the Lingam Tape instead of a terse “No comment” response to Malaysianini, which raises even more questions than providing an answer?
When the Chief Justice cannot give an outright denial when specifically asked about his response to the Lingam Tape, Abdullah’s response is most inexplicable, indefensible, imprudent and goes against every principle of integrity and good governance.
Abdullah parried off the question of setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the ground that the Lingam Tape has yet to be proven to be authentic.
Why is Abdullah fighting shy from making a specific public commitment that a Royal Commission of Inquiry or a Judicial Tribunal would be established if there is no denial from Ahmad Fairuz and if there is nothing to prove that the Lingam Tape is not authentic, as the implications of the Lingam Tape about national and international confidence in the system of justice in Malaysia are far-reaching and horrendous?
Every day that Ahmad Fairuz continues as Chief Justice with the Lingam Tape swirling and snowballing into a bigger international scandal, more and more foreign investors would be frightened off from choosing Malaysia as an investment destination because of gnawing doubts about the independence, impartiality, integrity accountability and professionalism of the judiciary in Malaysia.
Can Ahmad Fairuz go into hiding or public exclusion until the expiry of his term as Chief Justice at the end of October, provided he is not granted a six-month extension? Is he going to step down from every Federal Court case he is fixed to be a member for the rest of his tenure as Chief Justice?
Or will Ahmad Fairuz put the higher interests of the judiciary and the nation above his personal interests and go on leave until disposal of the Lingam Tape scandal or end of his term as Chief Justice, whichever comes earlier?
Is Prime Minister, Abdullah must not shirk from his responsibility to handle with responsibility and resolve the new crisis of confidence in the judiciary and he owes it to the nation which has just celebrated 50th Merdeka anniversary to act decisively to invoke Article 125 of the Constitution to empanel a Judicial Tribunal and suspend Ahmad Fairuz as Chief Justice to restore national and international confidence in the independence, impartiality, integrity, accountability and professionalism of the judiciary.
In the Lingam Tape scandal, Abdullah is not a target. However, he should be fully mindful that his reputation as Prime Minister is at stake as any mishandling or failure of leadership to resolve the new crisis of confidence in the Malaysian judiciary in a decisive and impartial manner would go down in Malaysian history as a major indictment of his premiership and a blot on the 50th Merdeka anniversary.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman