Here's aMore on the Ghost that refuses to go away, despite another one thousand tell-alls in the NST or TV3 by who? Just Beer Cheh!~~ They come cheaper by the dozen -- you wanna a HI? Hear's thy pick, Malaysia's rich in the weaponry available --Carlsbug, ChangMaliChan, or Tyger/Thaigal?
Exorcizing the ghost of Altantuya?
By Kim Quek
It is quite a spectacle watching a chorus of Umno ministers suddenly scrambling to defend their party boss over the long dormant and taboo Altantuya-Scorpene scandal, following an article in a newspaper supposedly debunking the common belief that Altantuya’s murder was irretrievably connected to the corruption scandal of the Scorpene submarine purchase.
For many years, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s name has been linked to the gruesome murder of Mongolian beauty Altantuya Shaariibuu, but such link has been hushed up and never been subject to any scrutiny by the authorities, including the police and the court, due obviously to its sensitive nature. But why should Umno leaders suddenly play up the issue now? Is it to cleanse Najib of such stigma so as to enhance his position in the imminent Umno party election? Or is it to influence public opinion ahead of the coming appellate court hearing of the two convicted murderers?
Whatever the intention is, is it not too risky for Umno to gamble its fortune on a hitherto unknown name to suddenly appear and make claims to cleanse Najib of his long-standing stains, when the same effort could boomerang by opening up a Pandora’s box?
Umno-owned newspaper The New Straits Times published on July 27 an interview with Jasbir Singh Chahl, a middle man touted as “architect” of the Scorpene deal, who vigorously claimed that Altantuya had nothing do with the RM7 billion deal and that the RM500 million so-called commission paid to the go-between company Perimekar Sdn Bhd was not bribery.
COUNTER ATTACKS AGAINST CRITICS
With this Jasbir story as the launching pad, Umno ministers one after another immediately began their salvos against critics of the scandal, accusing them of having “proliferated lies and scandals” to “tarnish the image of our country and our leaders”, and even called for police action against these alleged liars who have supposedly defamed the Prime Minister’s good name. These ministers include home minister Zahid Hamidi, and his deputy Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin and federal territories minister Tengku Adnan Mansor.
But, in their haste to defend Najib, who was then the defence minister at the material time of the murder and the deal, they seem to have overlooked two major deficits in the Jasbir story.
First, Jasbir Singh is but a middle man in the wheeler-dealer world of international defence weapon trade with developing countries, where shady dealing under table is the routine rather than the exception. It is for this reason that Jasbir has been in hiding all these years, while the scandals swirled and raged. So what authority or credibility does he command now to weigh in on such hefty issues as Najib’s alleged intimate relationship with Altantuya or the corrupt elements of the deal? Apart from Jasbir not having the standing to make any pronouncement on these controversial issues, there is no evidence that he was privy to the intricate details of these events. And on what basis could these Umno ministers take Jasbir’s words as gospel truth to launch their counter-attack and exonerate Najib?
Second, even if Altantuya was not involved in the Scorpene deal as claimed by Jasbir (which is not at all certain), this fact should not detract from the allegations made against Najib over his relationship with Altantuya or over the corruption committed through Perimekar. These allegations fall or stand on the merits of facts relating to these two issues individually (not jointly), revealed through credible public hearings.
BIZARRE COURT SCENES
So, what are the facts on the Altantuya murder case?
If Umno leaders think that Malaysians “mudah lupa” (are forgetful) as famously claimed by Mahathir Mohamad who was the prime minister when the Scorpene deal was negotiated and sealed, they are wrong. There are enough high dramas – and very startling at that – in this long drawn saga to last our memory for many more years to come.
For instance, who could have forgotten the bizarre court scene when all the three parties – prosecution, defence and judge – acted in unison to block the evidence of an alleged photograph showing Altantuya, Najib and Razak Baginda (the third accused who was Najib’s confidante) having a meal in a restaurant? Witness Ms Burmaa Oyunchimeg, cousin of Altantuya, testified on June 29, 2007 (Day 10 of the trial) that she Altantuya had shown such a photo to her in Hong Kong upon the former’s return from a trip to France. But before the witness could proceed further with the evidence, she was asked by the court to move on to another subject upon objection by both prosecutors and defence lawyers to her evidence.
That photograph, if proven, would have exposed Najib’s oath that he had never met “that girl” as a lie. On the other hand, if Najib’s oath was truthful, wouldn’t the court, which seemed eagle to protect Najib from incrimination, have allowed Burmaa to be examined further so that the fallacy of the photo could be exposed to exonerate Najib?
A few days earlier, another Mongolian witness testified on June 26 (Day 7) that the immigration computer entry record of herself, Altantuya and another companion had been mysteriously erased. Shockingly, instead of treating this evidence as a valuable new lead to the murder case, both prosecution and defence jointly objected to the evidence as irrelevant and insisted that it be expunged. Who could have ordered such erasure of immigration record if not someone high and mighty? What reason could they have to reject such evidence in court, if not for the purpose of stopping the trace of murder from leading to the top?
THE SENSATIONAL BALA EXPOSE’
Among the high dramas, perhaps none could surpass the sensation created by the late private investigator P. Balasubramaniam, who, in his first affidavit issued on July 3, 2008, exposed the allegation that Altantuya was in fact Najib’s former mistress before being passed over to Razak. This information was related to Bala by Razak and Altantuya separately through his many contacts with both, while acting as Razak’s private investigator shielding Razak from the harassment of his jilted lover Altantuya. Even more dramatic was Bala’s lightning reversal of his allegations relating to Najib through the second affidavit issued the very next morning (on July 4), followed by the mysterious evaporation of the entire Bala family from Malaysian soil within hours of reading out his second affidavit.
We came to know later that the Bala family was summarily bundled off the country after issuing the second affidavit and went on an Odyssey through several countries before settling down in Chennai, India.
The story that we can piece together through the mutually collaborated and undisputed evidence of relevant players in the Bala episode, namely Bala himself, Deepak Jaikishan (close associate of Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor) and Americk Singh Sidhu (Bala’s lawyer), is as follows:
On the day Bala issued his first affidavit, Rosmah directed Deepak to arrange for Bala to reverse his allegations and thereafter to leave the country with his family forthwith.
In the very same night (July 3), under Deepak’s arrangement, Bala met Najib’s brother Nazim (and his wife), who offered to pay Bala RM5 million for his co-operation to reverse his story and leave the country immediately with his family, with the subtle threat that the safety of Bala’s family would be in jeopardy, if Bala refused.
Then, lawyer Cecil Abraham under instruction from Najib, worked through the night of July 3 to prepare Bala’s second affidavit. Upon completion, Bala duly signed it.
On early next morning, July 4, Bala issued the second affidavit in the presence of a few invited reporters. Soon after on the same day, Bala and his family travelled through the Causeway to Singapore, where they took a flight to Bangkok, before going on to Kathmandu (Nepal), Delhi, Madras and finally Chennai.
The revelation of these details by Bala, Deepak and Americk took place openly and separately at different times, and even captured in video and widely disseminated through the Internet. Strangely, the authorities and Najib have kept silence over these highly damaging revelations. Common sense tells us that If these facts were untrue, wouldn’t these players in the Bala saga have been investigated by the police and charged in court for criminal defamation?
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS CONTINUE TO HAUNT
In fact, apart from the above instances that weigh heavily against Najib, many unanswered questions continue to loom large over the questionable handling of this murder case, such as:
1. Why were the following key personnel intimately connected with the case not subjected to police investigation or called as witnesses in court:
· Najib’s aide de comp Musa Safri who instructed the two convicted murderers who were Najib’s bodyguards to see Razak Baginda with the purpose of helping Razak to overcome Altantuya’s intensified harassment of Razak and his family.
· Najib’s special officer Nasir Safar who appeared in front of Razak’s house where Altantuya was making a scene and later whisked away by the two bodyguards on the day of her murder on Oct 19, 2006.
· Najib Razak, who was the superior of Musa Safri, Nasir Safar, and the two bodyguards, in addition to being a close friend and boss of Razak Baginda.
2. Why has the court stayed meticulously clear of the prime issue of the case – motive of murder, which is against all logic?
3. Why were the judge, prosecutors and defence lawyers abruptly and unprecedentedly replaced without credible reason shortly before the trial proper began?
4. Why was Bala’s affidavit which contained important new clues to the case, barred from court without credible reason?
5. Since Razak Baginda, who was accused of instigating the murder, was acquitted without his defence being called, then who ordered the killing?
These unanswered questions and the bizarre events that occurred outside and insider the court room speak for themselves with regards to their implications to Najib’s link to the murder case.
SERVICE FEES OR BRIBERY?
With regards to Jasbir Singh’s claim that the RM500 million paid to Perimekar was not bribery but fees fully deserved and duly earned by the go-between company, let us not forget that Perimekar was merely a travel agency when awarded the contract with hardly any staff to carry out the most rudimentary of its obligatory duties, not to mention the highly specialised expertise of submarine “project management and integrated services and coordination works” as claimed by Jasbir?
Besides, it was the French submarine manufacturer DCN which stated: “Perimekar was never more than a travel agency …..their price is inflated and their support function is very vague ……Yes, that company created unfounded wealth for its shareholders”, according to documents submitted to the French court which is now investigating allegations of corruption in this Scorpene deal.
There is a simple way to settle the controversy over this corruption scandal: Have this Perimekar deal probed and its accounts in relation to the project audited by an independent panel, and the truth will surely emerge.
Unless Umno leaders have the courage to accept this challenge, and to face up squarely to the facts incriminating Najib in the Altantuya murder case, they would be well advised to stop their nonsensical witch hunt against critics of these scandals.