I read the first day’s proceedings of the Haidar Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Tape yesterday with dismay and disappointment.
Why wasn’t senior lawyer V.K. Lingam called as the first witness to give him an opportunity to confirm the authenticity of the 14-minute video clip which would have saved time, money and resources and allowed the real issues impinging on the crisis of national and international confidence in the independence, integrity and quality of the judiciary to be addressed frontally.
If Lingam is prepared to admit upfront the authenticity of the video clip, then the country can be spared the rigmarole of the completely unnecessary testimony of Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) officers going to Lingam’s house in Kelana Jaya to take photographs of its living room and compare it with the location in the clip, finding them to be one and the same as well as other related testimony such as expert evidence from a private laboratory in the Spanish capital, Madrid verifying that the voice on the videoclip matched that of Lingam.
In fact, if Lingam admits to the authenticity of the clip, there would be no necessity to even summon businessman Loh Mui Fah who has surfaced publicly to admit that the video clip was taken by his son sometime in late December 2001 when he and his son had gone to Lingam’s house to obtain legal advice on family and business matters.
These evidence to establish the authenticity of the video clip would only be necessary if Lingam challenges the authenticity issue, in which case, he should be stood down as a witness until the Royal Commission has crossed the “authenticity” hurdle with all available verification testimony.
If Lingam admits to the authenticity of the videoclip, then the Royal Commission can immediately dispose of the first term of reference “to ascertain the authenticity of the video clip” and proceed to the other four terms of reference, viz:
• To identify the speaker, the person he was speaking to in the video clip and the persons mentioned in the conversation;
• To ascertain the truth or otherwise of the content of the conversation in the video clip.
• To determine whether any act of misbehaviour had been committed by the person or persons identified or mentioned in the video clip; and
• To recommend any appropriate course of action to be taken against the person or persons identified or mentioned in the video clip should such person or persons be found to have committed any misbehaviour.
Of course, should Lingam issue a flat denial about the authenticity of the video clip when called as an early witness and the Royal Commission of Inquiry reach a subsequent conclusion that the video clip was genuine, the Royal Commission should invoke the full punitive and penalty powers available to it to deal with Lingam.
It is still not too late for the Royal Commission of Inquiry to change strategy to summon Lingam immediately as a witness to offer him the opportunity to admit to the authenticity of the video clip, which will short-circuit the whole phase of calling witnesses for testimony to establish the authenticity of the videoclip – which will not only save public money, time and resources but a smarter way of conducting the royal commission of inquiry.