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Lingam tape: Who’s being protected?

SOMETHING feels horribly amiss in the government’s recent declaration that lawyer VK Lingam won’t be charged for his role in brokering the appointment of top judges.

The government’s focus on whether to charge Lingam or not feels like a red herring. After all, the Royal Commission of Inquiry clearly found ethical and criminal misbehaviour by some of Malaysia’s top judges, businesspeople and politicians.   

While it is certainly legitimate to press for Lingam’s prosecution, looking at the big picture, he is just another individual who tried to influence the judicial appointment process.

The more important issue is this: Lingam succeeded.

Hence, the question the government should ask is this — how could the judicial appointment process be so corrupted that a few individuals could determine the appointments of judges?

Instead of harping on the identity of mysterious key witnesses, shouldn’t the focus be on assessing how one of the pillars of government was so easily compromised? Or has the standard of accountability in Malaysia sunk so low that judges jockeying for promotions by hobnobbing with politicians and businesspeople aren’t really worthy of scrutiny or comment?

Essential reading for those with ambitions to control the judiciary

Most importantly, who’s focusing on making sure that this debacle never occurs again? Does the government believe that the setting up of a Judicial Appointments Commission is going to suddenly make all the dodgy wheeling and dealing within the judiciary go away? Or does it think that this miserable state of affairs was all due to one solitary lawyer with a phenomenal little black book?

Government insincerity

The government’s response to this expose of judicial corruption seriously calls into question its sincerity in tackling corruption.

First, there’s the assertion by the Attorney-General (AG)’s Chambers and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission that there’s insufficient evidence and no specific law to even charge Lingam. This is despite a 191-page royal commission report specifically spelling out the serious misconduct on the part of Lingam, several judges and politicians and the laws that could be invoked to charge them. Other than Lingam, there wasn’t even talk of whether anyone else would be charged.

Secondly, the tenor of the statements issued by government ministers in relation to this issue has been lukewarm at best and deliberately evasive, at worst.

In Parliament, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz was clearly trying to juggle away how Lingam’s actions undermined judicial integrity and was “morally wrong”, but was somehow legally right.

Even Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin weighed in. Muhyiddin defended the AG’s conclusion of “no case” against Lingam, saying there was a strong basis for the conclusion and that the government stood by it.

These statements are not indicative of a government that says eliminating corruption is one of its Key Result Areas.

Najib Razak has not spoken up about the issue
If that was really the case, where are the indignant statements condemning the blatant attempts at interference within the judiciary? Where are the outraged remarks about declining judicial integrity? Where are the pledges to get to the bottom of the matter and make sure those responsible for corruption are charged? Where are the promises that there will be a systematic review of judicial structures to ensure that there can be no more future tampering of judicial appointments?

If indeed the government is so committed to tackling corruption, why hasn’t Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak spoken up about this instead of letting his underlings do the talking?

A bad precedent

If no action is finally taken on those implicated in the Lingam video clip, it will set a bad precedent for the fight against corruption.

Trying an individual and finding him or her guilty of a crime does two things. It punishes the individual involved and acts as a deterrent for others thinking of committing the same crime.

The royal commission findings fingered high ranking individuals involved in improper conduct which the commission said could only have been “self-serving”. That constitutes corruption.

Screencap of Lingam video (source: Youtube)

Letting Lingam and his cohort, including in the judiciary, go scot-free sends a strong message that corruption is tolerated in this country, especially corruption among the powerful. Nabbing any number of Barisan Nasional (BN) or Pakatan Rakyat (PR) members of Parliament or aides won’t be able to counter that.  Neither will the setting up of special corruption courts, as proposed by the government, if the integrity of the judges who sit in those courts can so easily be called into question.

It is not possible that Lingam managed to inadvertently corrupt the highest-ranking judges in the country. Someone or more than someone must have been responsible for giving him access so that he could systematically work his way through the system. It’s obviously not just about Lingam because he could not have acted alone without collusion from within political and judicial circles. In fact, he may be the least of the culprits.

Until those responsible for misbehaving and corrupting the judiciary’s integrity are named by the government and held responsible for their actions, the damage done will not be repaired.

For certain, the government is smart enough to know this. Which is why its kid glove treatment over the whole affair raises questions: What is the government afraid of? Or more pertinently, whom, among themselves, are they trying to protect? Favicon

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11 Responses to “Lingam tape: Who’s being protected?”

  1. Fisher says:

    It is exactly what we see of Lingam’s hand, close to a sensitive spot which will hurt most painfully when squeezed. And that is what the man has his hands on that is enabling him to sit pretty and thumb his nose at all this royal toothless commissions, probes and what- have-you. Unless a Pakatan government is voted in, a lot of Lingams out there are going to continue to sit pretty and thumb their noses at all of Malaysia.

  2. A concerned citizen says:

    The government does not want the damage to be fixed. Why fix it when you are benefitting from it? It is such a wonderful tool to have at your disposal when you are in power!

  3. Nicholas Aw says:

    To put it in a nutshell, the government will not do anything about it. In all probability, charging Lingam would be opening a can of worms and like Jack and Jill, many would come tumbling after him.

    My dear rakyat, lest we forget, etch this incident and others and hold them close to our hearts. We know what to do come the next general election.

  4. Antares says:

    V.K. Lingam is merely the slick and savvy lawyer in this sordid scenario. The other key players named by the Haider Commission were Eusoff Chin, Tengku Adnan Mansor, Ahmad Fairuz, Vincent Tan and Mahathir Mohamad. The rot is deep within the roots of the power hierarchy. To attack it would be tantamount to mass suicide – which isn’t at all a bad idea. Now … where is Jim Jones when we really need someone like him to persuade the Umno/BN regime to commit collective seppuku?

  5. Tan says:

    The Lingam case may not be the first and last of the RCI. Unless and until the BN is replaced at the Federal Level, irrespective of the [high positions of people in] the RCI and personalities involved in the probe, the final verdict remain the same i.e. NFA. The present administration do not have the political will to pursue high-level personalities but they are good at exposing “ikan bilis” and prominently appear on the front pages of [the traditional press].

  6. PM says:

    The so-called search for the mysterious key witness is just a decoy and an excuse for not following up on the case. But we Malaysians are not fools – we can all smell a rat. Based on my own discussions on this particular case with a good number of Malaysian friends and colleagues, almost everyone points to the fact that the BN government cannot afford to let Lingam show the skeletons in the BN closet, so to speak, hence the reason for the NFA.

  7. fslam says:

    What do you expect when the decision to prosecute or not to rests in the hands of one man? He is none other than the Attorney-General.

  8. Eskay says:

    The decision of the Cabinet, that VK Lingam has not broken any laws, has been expected by the citizens in this country.

    How can Lingam alone be charged without hauling so many other VIPs? So the easiest solution is to declare “no case” on Lingam.

    But please, you people who walk the corridors of Putrajaya, the ordinary people will not take kindly nor forget this episode and many other episodes easily. We will ‘show-hand’ come the next General Election.

  9. Gopal Raj Kumar says:

    Certainly not the law. All that the video is evidence of is a man purported to be Lingam engaged in a monologue. It offers no proof that the Chief Justice or anyone else was at the time at the other end of the phone line or proof of a voice other than that of the man purporting to be Lingam.

    A bottle of unopened Penfold’s red of unknown vintage or grape sits between the lens and the man. That could be a clue as to what may have transpired.

    It is critical we examine the validity or admissibility of the video as primary evidence (which it is inadmissable as) in trying to prove what Anwar seeks to prove in this matter.

  10. M.K. says:

    No more hope! Only God can save Malaysia now…

  11. Gopal Raj Kumar says:

    Only God can save Malaysians from themselves. No one else can.

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