Is Gopal Sri Ram fit to prosecute?

Malaysia’s legal system has come under the microscope in recent weeks – from the controversial Riza Aziz settlement last month to the damning allegations by former Attorney General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali last week.

Central to both episodes is Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram.

Given the massive public interest in both these episodes, is the former Federal Court judge turned private practitioner fit to represent the symbol of Malaysia’s integrity? And has the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ image been tainted?

Shouldn’t there be an investigation that will allow Sri Ram to clear his name?

Senior lawyer Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos said Sri Ram should be suspended until a thorough investigation into Apandi’s claims is completed.

“It is a bit premature to decide at this moment if Sri Ram is fit or not,” said Jahaberdeen.

“That is why it is very important that the powers that be and the relevant stakeholders get to the bottom of this (Apandi’s claims) … once and for all to clear the cloud that is hanging over this entire issue as this concerns the prosecution.”

Jahaberdeen added it was important to clarify what Apandi said and to get Sri Ram’s response so that the prosecution can proceed without any doubts.

“If I were A-G, I would suspend Sri Ram as prosecutor at the moment until a proper investigation is done because you have to maintain public confidence

“Public confidence in the prosecution is very important, especially in high-profile cases,” Jahaberdeen added.

Another senior lawyer, Surjan Singh Sidhu, also called for an investigation over Apandi’s revelations but added Sri Ram should be allowed to prosecute unless proven otherwise.

“There is no reason for him to be recused,” said Surjan.

“Apandi’s allegations are not proven and he has come out of the blue.

“The whole matter should be investigated … we should not simply blame anyone,” Surjan added.

Sri Ram was appointed by former Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas to lead the prosecution in several high-profile cases, including that involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz.

Apandi alleged on June 10 that Sri Ram was sent by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in January 2018 to discuss arresting Najib. According to Apandi, Sri Ram had said “the police and a magistrate have been arranged” (to facilitate Najib’s arrest).

Following Apandi’s Facebook posting, Najib filed a fresh application on Friday to remove Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit tampering trial. Apandi also filed an affidavit in support of the application.

The audit tampering case is fixed for case management tomorrow before Justice Mohamad Zaini Mazlan.

Sri Ram declined comment following Apandi’s claims. His silence casts a dark cloud over the Malaysian legal justice system. The Malaysian Bar has also kept mum despite keen interest within the fraternity.

Several police reports have been lodged following Apandi’s revelations.

Others, however, have turned this episode into a political drama, claiming Apandi remains loyal to Najib and Umno.

Apandi was appointed A-G during Najib’s tenure but was replaced by Thomas after Pakatan Harapan won the 14th general election in May 2018.

The Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition suffered an embarrassing defeat in the said election as Najib was implicated in several high-profile cases, namely SRC International and 1MDB.

Apandi told Twentytwo13 on June 10 that his revelation was not a political move and that this was the beginning of more revelations.