KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) has called for a white paper to be tabled in Parliament to explain how Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng's acquittal on two graft charges.
In a statement, the party's secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said the case is of public interest and attorney-general Tommy Thomas must, therefore, provide a detailed explanation, according to a report on the Malaysiakini website on Tuesday (Sept 4).
On Monday, the Penang High Court acquitted Mr Lim of two charges - that he used his former position as chief minister of Penang to approve the conversion of land, and that he gained gratification for himself by buying a bungalow below market value, reported news site Malaysiakini.com.
His acquittal comes after his lawyers filed representations to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) for the case to be dropped after PH was elected to power in May, arguing that the charges against Mr Lim were politically motivated.
Businesswoman Phang Li Koon, who sold the bungalow to Mr Lim, was also acquitted of the corruption charge against her.
The MACC said it was shocked that the Attorney-General withdrew the case against the minister.
PAS asked for the Attorney-General to reveal details like the contents of Mr Lim's representation to the attorney-general; the criteria and justification for dropping the case after summoning more than 20 witnesses.
In addition PAS asked whether the MACC's opinion had been fully taken into account; whether the case was binding, whereby other cases with the same facts as Mr Lim's case would be dropped.
"Since the case involves an MP, who is also a cabinet minister, a white paper should be tabled in the next parliamentary session to explain this issue to protect and uphold the Parliament's prestige," Mr Takiyuddin said.
The Penang High Court's decision on Monday drew a strong reaction from main Umno opposition party as well. Its Youth chief Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki described the decision as a “black mark in the history of New Malaysia”.
“The move to drop Guan Eng’s case without a solid explanation and clear justification by the AGC only highlights that justice is not being served,” he said, in remarks reported in the Malaysian media including The Star newspaper.
MCA Youth Young Professionals bureau chairman Eric Choo Wei Sern called on the AGC to clarify in “no uncertain terms” as to why the charges were dropped.
He said the AGC must state whether there was any new evidence which led to it withdrawing the case.
Prominent Umno MP Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted that while accusations of “selective prosecution” had been made in the past, there was now alleged “selective non-prosecution”.
“This is a strange decision and creates a bad perception towards the AGC,” he said in his tweeet.
Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa said he would leave it to the people to evaluate for themselves the decision to acquit Mr Lim, the Star reported
In other reactions, Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said that the MACC’s role was to investigate and make recommendations to the public prosecutor.
He said the decision whether or not to charge a person was entirely up to the public prosecutor, whom he said may or may not accept the recommendations of the MACC.
“It is the absolute prerogative of the public prosecutor at any stage of the trial, before the delivery of judgment to decline to prosecute further pursuant to Section 254 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” said Mr Varughese.
The Star also quoted the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) executive director Cynthia Gabriel as saying that the move underscored the need for public clarification and disciplinary sanctions to take place over the alleged corruption charges.
“C4, as an organisation championing anti-corruption and accountable governance, is concerned that our venerable institutions are subject to political interference and/or partisan motivations when it comes to corruption.
“We are concerned that politicians who have actually betrayed public trust may be allowed back into the system, while others may have to suffer from trumped-up charges in the interest of defending political supremacy rather than public interest,” she said in a statement issued Monday (Sept 3).
At the same time, she questioned how the High Court could easily acquit the duo from corruption charges, as the former Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali was confident in leading the prosecution previously.
“Either the previous AG was coerced to press charges in court, or the system is always stacked in favour of the existing government,” she was reported by The Star as saying in her statement.
Noted social critic Chandra Muzaffar also said the Attorney General's Chambers must explain the reasons why its corruption case against Mr Lim was withdrawn.
“In the new Malaysia, such important decisions like this should be backed up with solid reasoning and those reasons known to all,” he told Free Malaysia Today (FMT).