Was the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Azalina Othman Said acting as the Speaker’s Speaker when she unilaterally and arbitrarily announced yesterday that questions on Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s RM2.6 billion political donation scandal can no longer be raised in Parliament because of sub judice arising from the Bar Council’s suit against the Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali?
The Bar is seeking a judicial review of Apandi’s decision to clear Najib of any wrongdoing in the RM2.6 billion donation and the RM42 million SRC International cases.
Azalina quoted Standing Order 23(1) which states that “a question shall not be so drafted as to be likely to prejudice a case under trial, or be asked to any matter which is sub judice”.
Firstly, Azalina has committed a grave contempt of the Parliament Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, usurping his powers as Speaker as under the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders only the Speaker can decide if a matter is sub judice, whether under Standing Orders 23(1) or 36(2) with regard to questions or debates, and even then only after the issue has arisen whether in the course of question time or debate.
Azalina should not exceed her bounds as Minister in charge of parliamentary affairs for the government, which does not give her powers to be the Speaker’s Speaker!
Secondly, the Bar’s suit against the Attorney-General on Najib’s RM2.6 billion donation scandal cannot justify a blanket ban on the subject of the RM2.6 billion donation scandal in Parliament, whether during question time or in debates, although nothing would make Najib, Azalina and the Ministers happier than to have a total ban to prohibit raising the RM2.6 billion donation subject in Parliament.
But this cannot be the object of the sub judice rule, which make it odious and obnoxious.
It is utterly ridiculous and outrageous for Najib or Azalina to claim that queries in Parliament about who were the actual donors for the astronomical sums of money deposited into Najib’s personal banking accounts, whether the deposits were US$681 (RM2.6 billion) or in fact more than US$1billion as recently alleged by Wall Street Journal (and for which Najib dared not initiate legal proceeding for the past eight months), and what evidence were available that Najib had returned RM2.03 billion to donors in August 2013, fall under the sub judice rule as likely to prejudicial to the case filed by the Bar against the Attorney-General!
In the course of the past eight months, different versions had been given by UMNO leaders about the nature of the RM2.6 billion donation deposited into Najib’s personal accounts.
On August 11, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the donation was from a “brotherly nation” which wanted to see certain parties win the 13th general election because they were friendly to them.
Four days later, Umno Kuantan division chief Datuk Seri Wan Adnan Wan Mamat said the RM2.6 billion was from Saudi Arabia as a form of appreciation of Malaysia “championing Islam” and fighting militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
But on August 22, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said the donation came from their “Muslim friends in the Middle East” to help Umno fight DAP in the 14th general election, as the party was funded by Jews.
Later that same day, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi said he met the donors’ representatives who informed him that the funds was in appreciation for the government’s efforts in countering terrorism, and to help Barisan Nasional (BN) maintain Malaysia’s status as a Sunni country.
After the A-G’s no-further-action decision on Najib at the end of January, the BBC reported an unnamed Saudi source as saying that the money was donated to help the prime minister win GE13 and counter potential Muslim Brotherhood influence in Malaysia as the Saudis consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, and Malaysia’s opposition alliance at that time included PAS, “whose founders were inspired by the Brotherhood”.
How could the raising of questions whether during question-time or in debates on the veracity or otherwise of these claims, some of which are really astonishing and astounding, be prejudicial to the suit filed by the Bar against Apandi?
DAP MP for Puchong and head of the DAP legal bureau, Gobind Singh Deo has rightly pointed out that the review, filed by the Bar Council against the Attorney-General, had not yet been granted leave, and as such the matter has not yet become the subject of a trial and hence not yet sub judice.
All MPs must be mindful that the sub judice rule is to protect the courts from parliamentary interference and not to provide Ministers with a convenient device to avoid or escape parliamentary scrutiny and accountability in accordance with the principles of good governance and parliamentary democracy.
The sub judice rule cannot be absolute but must strike a balance between two sets of principles. On the on hand, the right of parties in legal proceedings should not be prejudicied by discussion of their case in Parliament and Parliament should not prevent the courts from exercising their functions. On the other hand, Parliament has a constitutional right and obligation to discuss major national issues affecting the country’s future and our international repute and credibility.
Are we going to hear voices demanding that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) should on sub judice grounds send the Auditor-General’s final audit report on the RM55 billion 1MDB scandal into deep freeze and delay the PAC report on the 1MDB scandal indefinitely on the same sub judice grounds?
The sub judice rule cannot and must not be used to enable the government to sweep Najib mega scandals under the carpet!