RCI on Lingam Tape: Boys Sent To Do The Job of Men

by M. Bakri Musa

Regardless of the outcome of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the “Lingam Videotape,” these public hearings have already given us a rare and instructive glimpse on the inner workings of our government at the highest levels, and of the caliber of individuals in such positions.

This is also clearly demonstrated by the commissioners themselves. Their individual impressive credentials notwithstanding, they are merely boys sent to do the job of men.

In forcing Prime Minister Abdullah to convene this Royal Commission, Anwar Ibrahim has done a great service to the nation. Malaysia owes a huge debt of gratitude to him, as well as to the son of businessman Loh Mui Fah for having the foresight to tape that infamous conversation in the first place, and to the anonymous individual who subsequently gave that tape to Anwar.

The alternative media, in particular Malaysiakini and Malaysia Today, together with various bloggers and members of non-governmental entities, helped ensure that the evolving scandal was not conveniently ignored by the government. The mainstream media were, as usual, irrelevant. They not only missed this most important story but tried initially to dismiss it.

Third World Proceedings

Not being physically present, I missed important details of the dynamics of the hearings, such as the demeanors and body language of the various participants. I have to rely on the alternative media, the various blogs, and personal communications from individuals present at the hearings.

A few years back I was a spectator at a medical malpractice trial in the brand new courthouse in Malacca. The judge and lawyers looked impressive; the lawyers solemn in their black gowns, the judge wise if not owlish in his robe and wig. Unlike the Malaysian courtrooms of yore, this one was mercifully air-conditioned.

Alas only the appearance was First World. Once the trial proceeded, the Third World mentality and culture oozed out. There was no court recorder or computers or overhead projectors. Consequently the judge was reduced to scribbling furiously, barely paying attention to the witnesses and lawyers. No wonder Malaysian judges are notorious for their delinquent written judgments; they are busy being secretaries! With no overhead projectors, valuable court time was wasted circulating important documents and exhibits.

This Commission of Inquiry apparently is no different.
In an inquiry of intense national interest, I would have expected the proceedings to be videotaped, and if not broadcasted live then at least posted on the website. Certainly the transcripts should be. Alas the Commission does not even have its own website.

Poor Staff Work

The Commission’s poor staff work was evident. The commissioners and lawyers relied too much on official documents and mainstream media reports. In questioning former Chief Justice Eusoff Chin no one bothered to present the damning evidence garnered through the investigative reporting of Malaysiakini.

If the Commission were a nefarious attempt to embarrass former Prime Minister Mahathir, then that too was a bumbling failure. The questioners were easily flummoxed by Tun’s repeated “I-do-not-recall” responses. They were either intimidated by Tun or simply incompetent. The Tun easily dismissed them, and with a smile to boot. They could not elicit anything substantive from him. Those commissioners forget that no one is obligated to make their work easier.

The Tun reduced DPP Nordin Hassan to a bumbling first year law student in a moot court. Nordin would have gained more if he had asked general questions on the Tun’s philosophy and mode of filling senior appointments instead of trying to force him to recall obscure details. If nothing else such queries would reveal how we ended up with a sleepy head like Abdullah Badawi as Prime Minister. It is really naïve for the prosecutor to think that Mahathir could recall (or try hard to) specific letters written six or seven years ago.

The omissions are equally revealing. There was for example, no criminal investigation to the leaked official letters.

There are a few illuminating moments related to the proceedings. The Star dutifully published a photograph of seven members of the Malaysian Youth Secretariat carrying placards mocking Mahathir for his repeated memory lapses. This is the paper that did not see fit to print pictures of the recent massive Bersih and Hindraf rallies. What do you expect from editors who are only too eager to receive directives from the government?

Naïve Inquiry

It is an axiom among savvy lawyers never to ask witnesses questions you do not know or anticipate the answers. This requires doing your legwork thoroughly. If you anticipate “I do not recall” responses, you should avoid asking specific details and instead relate some favorable events the witness might have done or said at the material time. He would then be more likely if not eager to recall the details. Only after that would you sneak in questions about the details of the specific material item. The witness would then appear sneaky if he or she were to claim loss of memory.

The commission has considerable authority including the granting of immunity and prosecuting those who perjure themselves (give false testimony). It should use that power to depose (get sworn statements) minor witnesses like Lingam’s brother and secretary, as well as the secretaries to Tun Mahathir and Eusoff Chin well ahead of the public hearings. In calling star witnesses like Eusoff China and Tun Mahathir prematurely, the Commission committed a major strategic blunder.

The Commission is now halfway through its public hearings. Like the earlier one on the Police Force, this one too will prove to be an exercise in futility. Prime Minister Abdullah will, as usual, form yet another committee to “review” the findings, and within a short time, all will again be forgotten.

Nonetheless we have learned much on how senior governmental positions are filled and the caliber of those appointed. That should embolden us in cyber world, alternative media and non-governmental organizations to continue holding those in authority accountable.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 7:31 am

    Certainly not Boys Sent To Do The Job of Men — they are Monkeys Sent To Cover Up The Job of Other Monkeys

  2. #2 by ahkok1982 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 7:43 am

    interesting read… did not really know much about strategies of lawyers. anyway, everyone already knows that this another one of their cover ups.

  3. #3 by Jimm on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 8:11 am

    Thank you, The Done Master.
    I pray that you will live long enough to witness your own doings to all Malaysian. May you too outlived your next of kins to see them paying the price of all these.
    This country has enough wealth go go around for each and everyone.
    Somehow, you took a shortcut to changed her course and these all you have done for us are unimagingable damaging our future.
    Let us now, seated and enjoy the last piece from your masterpiece.

  4. #4 by mwt on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 8:14 am

    Reading only the wired agency account of Lingam’s testimony would missed out a lot of details. Now what was the original motive when a Copy of the Clip was given to lawyer Manjit Singh? The Lohs were not happy as they could not get a fees refund from Lingam and Manjit was not paid his fees. Lingam was acting for Loh’s father and Lingam was sued by Loh’s mother over a matrimony case. So was it revenge & hatred? Never mind about Anwar’s motive.
    Further Lingam says “It looks like me and it sounds like me”. He said he was not going to say anything more until the original recording had been verified. The defence of Lingam’s hinges on his IMPOSSIBLE demand of the “original” copy of the Video Clip. It was first recorded in a memory card and resided in the Sony 707 Digi camera. The purpose of the memory card is for recording purpose and has limited capacity and its full content must be transferred out for further use. So the “original” is lost forever and Lingam is now insisting that without the original he cannot get the clip verified as he had read literature and research that states “that authenticity cannot be established without the original recording and when he had the original recording, he would send it to his consultants to verify its authenticity”. In this he must have been grossly misled. A duplicate would faithfully reproduce the original otherwise how will the “original” CDs and Cassettes be made for sale?
    More details at:

  5. #5 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 8:56 am

    “Lingam is now insisting that without the original he cannot get the clip verified as he had read literature and research that states “that authenticity cannot be established without the original recording and when he had the original recording, he would send it to his consultants to verify its authenticity” mwt

    That depends on what you mean by ‘authenticity’ and whether authenticity is relevant. Shouldn’t it be ‘original’? If by ‘authenticity’ you mean the recording has not been tampered with, there is technology which could verify that.

  6. #6 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 8:59 am

    The issue is more about perjury before RCI

    ‘I do not know who I was talking to. But certainly I was not talking to Mr Ahmad Fairuz,’ Mr Lingam told the inquiry. ‘Until today I have not spoken to Mr Ahmad Fairuz over the telephone.’ ‘I can’t recollect when this conversation took place,”

    The glaring thing is the RCI did not warn Lingam that if its proven, then he will be committing perjury with his statement and would want to change it.

    This RCI is a joke. They don’t intend to go after Lingam at all…

  7. #7 by Libra2 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 9:18 am

    Bakri has given a very apt title to his piece here.
    Look, they are being treated like boys (and girl) and they are behaving as such.!
    Lingam thinks they are boys (and girl) . What surprises me is the panel members are just listening to him without giving him ample warnings.
    It is not for him to decide on the authenticity of the clip. His duty is to answer the questions and it is panel which will decide.
    In any case, the whole can see that Lingam is lying through his teeth.

  8. #8 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 9:22 am

    “The glaring thing is the RCI did not warn Lingam that if its proven, then he will be committing perjury with his statement and would want to change it.” Bigjoe

    I believe all witnesses have been placed under oath.

  9. #9 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 9:27 am

    “What surprises me is the panel members are just listening to him without giving him ample warnings.” Libra2

    What warnings?

    “It is not for him to decide on the authenticity of the clip. His duty is to answer the questions and it is panel which will decide.
    In any case, the whole can see that Lingam is lying through his teeth.”

    This is only a hearing, not a court hearing.

    The world may believe he is lying but that is not enough. It has to be shown that he’s lying.

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 9:28 am

    People should take note of how our ex-PM, ex-CJ, current minister, and lawyer put up excellent defence in the Royal Commission of Inquiry.

    Learn from them so that in future when one is facing a Royal Commission of Inquiry or in a court, one, even under oath to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, can always say “I do not recall or remember” or “I can’t recollect” or “I’m drunk”. Famous last words.

    TDM’s repeated “I-do-not-recall” means “I don’t bother to recall, even if it is true”.

    VKL said the person recorded in the video looks like him and sounds like him, but refused to say he is the man filmed.

    However, illogically, he said “I do not know who I was speaking to ……..”. Then who is the man on the phone in the video?

  11. #11 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 9:30 am

    We’ll know if Lingam is lying or not when the matter goes to trial.

  12. #12 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 9:43 am

    “The Tun reduced DPP Nordin Hassan to a bumbling first year law student in a moot court. Nordin would have gained more if he had asked general questions on the Tun’s philosophy and mode of filling senior appointments instead of trying to force him to recall obscure details.” Bakri

    He cannot just jump into something without first building a foundation for it.

  13. #13 by justiciary on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 9:45 am

    We always say ‘justice must not only be done,it must be seen to be done’.But the RCI hearing so far shows us justice is not done but is done in the bottomless pockets of top politicians,judges,lawyers and businessmen.Betul,betul malu.

  14. #14 by budak on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 10:19 am

    i beleive Lingam is speaking his truth…
    if tomorrow the sun come out from the West…!

  15. #15 by BlackEye on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 10:37 am

    “A few years back I was a spectator at a medical malpractice trial in the brand new courthouse in Malacca. The judge and lawyers looked impressive; the lawyers solemn in their black gowns, the judge wise if not owlish in his robe and wig” Bakri

    Wigs?? Thought wigs were done away with in the 70s.

  16. #16 by DAPHNE on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 3:33 pm

    I would like to digress from the topic a bit.

    Could the case of banning the use of the word ‘Allah’ another case of “Boys sent to do the job of men”?

    Could a report prepared by some boy in the publication department of the Ministry of Internal Security have persuaded the Deputy Minister Johari to threaten to ban the HERALD because of the use of the word ‘Allah’? No doubt the boys were supported by some linguistic experts and/or professors from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, and the Islamic University, with some PhD qualifications in linguistic or Islam.

    As promised a few weeks earlier, this is an update on the use of ‘Allah’ in the Bahasa Malaysia section of HERALD.

    I have just read the 3rd issue of HERALD for this year, 2008, dated 20 January 2008.

    There are 4 pages in the Bahasa Malaysia section, with the mast HERALD Mingguan Katolik with verses from 1 Kor 1:1-3 with the word “Allah” used 2 times and “Tuhan” used 3 times beside it.

    In the Home News section there are 7 articles on “What others are saying about ‘Allah’” as follows:

    – Cabinet: ‘Allah’ for Muslims only
    – Disallowing use of ‘Allah’ unconstitutional
    – ‘Allah’ in use long before the advent of Islam
    – What about the Tuhan in the Rukunnegara?
    – Children of all faiths sing the appropriate state anthems during their school assemblies, where the word ‘Allah’ is used in Selangor, Kedah, Pahang, Terrengganu, Johor, Perak, Kelantan, and where ‘Tuhan’ is used in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Sarawak.

    Instead of being cowed by the directive from the Ministry of Internal Security against the use of ‘Allah’, there seemed to be greater awareness that ‘Allah’ is a rightful word to refer to Christian God in Bahasa Malaysia, which merely adopted the Arabic word ‘Allah’ in use for thousands of years before Malaysia was born less than 50 years ago (Malaysia was formed in 1963).

    The position of the publisher of HERALD is that it will persist with its lawsuit against the government to challenge the prohibition from using the word ‘Allah’.

  17. #17 by Jimm on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 3:48 pm

    We all can laughed over this comedian act as most of us couldn’t be bother the outcome of this RCI because it’s fixed.
    What really sadden me is the way these people show off their authority over our country judiciary system was such an amazed.
    Our Kings are quiet over this, those Ketuanan are also quiet…
    Most of us are always called, “Immigrant” therefore, we have no say…
    What much amazed about this, those Ketuanan are being taken as ‘suckers’ by these people are very proud of the issue …
    Think about it … we are much better off than those Ketuanan ..

  18. #18 by Evenmind on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 4:59 pm

    Hollywood , Bollywood eat ur hearts out, you cannot compete with what is currently going on in malaysian courtrooms, they are so comical that even Charlie Chaplin will roll in his grave,
    Director: Badawi
    Producer : Najib
    Action Scenes : Kerismuddin and Nazri
    Financier : Vincent Tan.
    Lead Actors : VK Lingam, Mahatir , and Botak Eusoff Chin.

  19. #19 by bra888 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 6:17 pm

    I propose the jury system!
    Why is it better?
    With the jury system:
    -the people get to know the law better
    -the people get to participate and learn about our current social issues
    -the people are more aware of the current social issues
    -the decision made is less bias as more opinions of other juries are taken rather than just the judge
    -the people will be more aware of the importance of obeying the law
    -the people will realize the bad effects of negligence, corruption, and so on
    -the decision made will be more fair to people with different race and religion as it is made by a group of people consisting different race and religion

    Maybe there’s more but I can’t think of more at the moment

  20. #20 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 10:18 pm

    Those are not reasons why a jury system is preferred.

    It is thought that justice is best served when different tribunals serves as triers of law and triers of facts. We live in communities and it is for the protection of communities that laws are made. So it is only natural and fitting that we are tried by a jury of our peers who alone decide as to the facts of the case. What is a fact and what is not. The jurors are chosen at random from the electoral roll, and exclude members of the legal and law enforcement.

    Judges are trained in law and give directions to the jurors on the law applicable in that case. The jurors then apply the facts as they find them, to the law and come out with a verdict. In some cases a unanimous verdict is required and failure to reach a unanimous verdict leads to a hung jury and a re-trial.

    In the case of Malaya in the 50s and later Malaysia as a developing country, with low rates of literacy etc it was thought that the jury system would not be the best way to go. Some fifty years later, I feel it is time for a review. It is time we bring back the jury system.

    The right to be tried by a jury of our peers is a constitutional right.

    Would Anwar have been found guilty if tried by a jury of his peers? I don’t think so.

  21. #21 by bra888 on Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 11:49 pm

    Any idea how long would it take to change to jury system? Ever since this Lingam tape, wouldn’t the current system be very doubtful in it’s efficiency?

  22. #22 by HB Lim on Wednesday, 23 January 2008 - 12:59 am

    Ahkok memtioned lawyer’s strategies and the following thought came to my mind.

    Talking about legal strategies, I think Anwar’s defence was killed by the lack of a proper or well-thought legal strategy.

    Remember that in the original charge, on the date stated as the date on which the offence was allegedly committed, the condominium, the place of the alleged offence, was still not completely constructed.

    As a matter of strategy, that evidence should have been kept inside the counsel’s pocket not to be divulged until the main witness had given sufficient evidence to put him in a corner without any opportunity to repair or change the date – i.e. make him say as much as possible how he remembered the date, that the date was not a mistake, that the place was that place on that date with no mistake about it, like the means to get to the place, the staircase or the lift, the colour of the paint of the condominium, the furnishings, the decorations, the number of rooms etc etc and connect all these to that specific date, how the witness remembered that date etc, until all was carved on stone, until the witness was set dead and irreversibly in that scenario and that time / date – before he was finally confronted with the fact that on that date, all he had said and described were lies and impossibilities because the fact was that there was no such place on such date and thereby nailing him inside his self-made coffin.

    Instead, that piece of evidence of the most damning force in the Anwar’s case was reduced to ashes when it was divulged too quickly in the beginning of the trial. And what happened? The prosecution conveniently said that there was a typographical error and got the charge amended and the rest is history. All inconsistencies were repaired and Anwar was convicted.

    If I remember correctly, Judge Anuar made a pertinent remark on this faux paus in his written judgment. I was appalled when I read in the papers the day after the fateful day when it was reported that the leading counsel told the Judge even before the trial had effectively started that on the date stated in the original charge, the condominium had not been even completely constructed. Too early, too fast, too adverse to Anwar’s defence.

    Any trial lawyer would tell you that the most effective legal strategy to destroy a lying witness is to entice and lead him on to tell as many lies as possible so as to put him in a corner before you confront him with your evidence damaging to him. Confront him too early, he would have an opportunity to explain away or repair his lie.

    Hence. legal or lawyer’s strategy is of utmost importance. Here, probe Lingam, let him lie and lie and lie. And then confront him with incontrovertible truth into which his story cannot fit or blend in at all. Probe, probe, probe. Then confront. On this note, I think the Minister and Mahathir were let off the stand too soon.

    It is tough, no doubt about it. Those people would have huddled together for many nights talking and planning and concocting a common story, a common approach to answer questions. But God is great; the more you lie, the more lies you need to cover up the lies. In the end, even if they may be technically off the hook, they would have lost so much credibility in the eyes of other people.

    Of course, for those thick-skinned, so what? Many have retired so the truth or the lack of credibility would not matter at all, at least not in this world. The rest is between them and their Creator. That would be the real trial they would have to face. Each has to ultimately meet with and account to his Creator.

  23. #23 by DarkHorse on Wednesday, 23 January 2008 - 9:50 pm

    The art of X-examination is an important tool in the tool bag of trial lawyers. In the hands of an experienced advocate the art of X-examination can produce devastating results.

    Lying witnesses are easily exposed for what they are i.e. witnesses who lie, through cross-examination. The purpose of the cross-examination is to persuade the court that this witness cannot be believed and his or her entire testimony needs to be disregarded and not just a portion of it.

    Yes, a lying witness would have extreme difficulty, under questioning, to hold his version of the ‘truth’. An honest witness notwithstanding how many times the same question is asked and asked in different ways, the answer would still be the same. Because the truth has but one version.

    Sometimes the testimony give by an honest witness can have discrepancies and inconsistencies especially when it has taken a long time for the matter to come to trial. Memory fades and evidence deteriorates. The inconsistencies in the testimony of the witness may be minor or may not. A simple memory refreshing could sometimes close the gaps, and in the process ‘inconsistencies’ could be explained away. In others it could not. But there is a difference between a lying witness who has no credibility at all and whose entire testimony should be completely disregarded, and a witness who has problems in recalling events etc.

    I don’t know if you are aware that witnesses are not allowed to sit in the court room and listen to testimonies given by other witnesses before giving theirs.

    True, it is not that difficult for a group of dishonest but determined witnesses to sit huddled together for hours discussing strategies and what to say etc. even fabricating evidence in the process to protect the accused. Some attorneys would coach their witnesses what to say and what not to say.

    But believe me there is nothing that a cross-examination of these lying witnesses could not expose.

  24. #24 by boomingray on Thursday, 24 January 2008 - 9:31 am

    i did make a remark on OCT/2007 quoting that VK Lingam will say that he was drunk!

    My goodness!it rily does!

    When we heard our leaders said “these are not our cultures and practises!”,be aware!

  25. #25 by DarkHorse on Thursday, 24 January 2008 - 9:23 pm

    Come to think of it that is his only defense!

    An excuse for not remembering what he said and did. Imagine the frustration felt by those examining him. Since he was under the effects of intoxication, how could he possibly remember who he was seen and heard talking to – especially when the only memory he had was what he saw and heard on the tape! Even then there was no way of confirming that it was really him on that tape since the original had been lost!

    Indians like to drink and many cannot hold their drinks. This profile and stereotyping of Indians has been used to his advantage.

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