Set up fourth special committee to investigate claims that magistrates and police ‘can be arranged’

Last week, the Malaysian government agreed to form three special committees.

It should have formed a fourth – to look into claims that magistrates and police in the country ‘can be arranged’.

It was slightly over a year ago when former attorney-general (AG) Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali made headlines following his damning allegation implicating former Federal Court judge, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and ex-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Apandi had then told Twentytwo13 that in addition to his June 10, 2020 Facebook posting ‘A prelude to a chapter in my memoirs!’ (posted at 8.08pm), he had “a lot to say” and “you’ll be reading it in my memoirs.” His Facebook posting has since been deleted.

Apandi had then claimed that Sri Ram and a young Chinese lawyer, later identified as Tey Jun Ren, had visited him at his home in January 2018. Apandi wrote that Sri Ram had said: “He (Dr Mahathir) wants you to arrest Najib at his office; you go tomorrow at 2pm, we have arranged for the police in Putrajaya to do what is necessary on your instructions. We have also arranged for a magistrate to issue the remand order when he is brought before him or her.”

He later told Twentytwo13: “This chapter about Sri Ram is only a small part of it. There are so many other things. Batu Puteh incident … why Dr Mahathir withdrew the case at the eleventh hour although everything had been filed and fixed for hearing.”

It came as no surprise when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that Apandi would be heading one of the three special committees – to carry out a study in challenging the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision on the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh, also known as Pedra Branca.

On Feb 16, 2017, Apandi, who was then the AG, was supposed to lead a team to handle the review at the ICJ, The Hague in the Netherlands. However, when Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over Putrajaya in 2018, the government withdrew the application before the case was scheduled to be heard on June 11, 2018.

While the public may eventually hear the full story of what had transpired in the Pulau Batu Puteh case, the fourth – and crucial – special committee that should be set up is in relation to Apandi’s very own damning claims about Sri Ram.

Sri Ram is a former Federal Court judge turned private practitioner. In 2018, former AG Tan Sri Tommy Thomas appointed Sri Ram as deputy public prosecutor to handle high-profile criminal cases, including Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s corruption case involving the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for rural schools in Sarawak.

Ironically, the other special committee set up by the government last week is to conduct a preliminary review of whether the government should take action over the claims made by Thomas in his memoir, My Story: Justice in the Wilderness.

Surely the formation of such a special committee, tasked with looking into Apandi’s claims, would clear the air once and for all. It’s not every day that a former AG goes on to accuse a former Federal Court judge that “magistrates and police” can be arranged. The police and the judiciary would, logically, want to get to the bottom of this as it affects their professional reputations.

After all, the police and Malaysia’s legal system have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons many times this year alone.

In March, former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador had claimed that a cartel within the force had conspired to bring him down. In July, a police chief and three corporals were nabbed for partying and boozing with women in a police station in Bangi.

In June, two senior lawyers were linked to a series of text messages which alluded that court decisions could be influenced. This prompted senior lawyers to call for the Malaysian Bar and the authorities to act on the allegations, adding that public confidence in the legal profession must be preserved.

On Aug 4, former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin claimed that certain people were unhappy that he had refused to entertain their demands, including to interfere in the judicial process, to get charges against several individuals dropped. Senior lawyer Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos had then expressed fear that if claims that court cases could be “settled” went unchallenged, the public would lose trust in the entire legal process.

The formation of such committees, at a time when the government is battling Covid-19 and gearing up for the tabling of Budget 2022, is both interesting and intriguing.

One special committee that received plenty of attention was the one tasked with conducting a comprehensive investigation into the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim. Adib died after sustaining injuries during a riot at the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Subang Jaya on Nov 27, 2019.

The outcomes of the findings on Pulau Batu Puteh and on Thomas’ memoir, however, would also be equally exciting, for it would help set the record straight over these issues once and for all.

The committees must be clear, transparent, and open. Most importantly, their findings must be made public.

Perhaps, the government will also see fit to look into Apandi’s damaging claims. This is vital in preserving the sanctity of the justice and legal system.