Updated 5.50pm, 26 May 2009
BUKIT MERTAJAM, 26 May 2009: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) today acknowledged that two of its members had met independent candidate Aminah Abdullah over the Penanti state by-election, but denied that any attempt was made to bribe her.
In a press conference today, PKR elections director Saifuddin Nasution said the party had identified the two persons involved.
“We will let them explain for themselves what has happened,” he said.
The two are PKR supreme council member Cheah Kah Peng and Lim Eng Nam, who is the special officer for Penang state executive councilor Law Choo Kiang.
“From what we have heard, it’s a conversation between friends who met over a meal. It was a jovial occasion. It seems like Animah wanted to rejoin the party and one of the friends would convey the message to the top state leaders,” Saifuddin said.
Yesterday, Aminah claimed she was offered the posts of Deputy Chief Minister 1 and president of a local council, and to have her campaign expenses remunerated, by the two PKR leaders.
She said the bribes were offered in a meeting in her home in Jelutong, and that she had recorded the meeting without the knowledge of the two PKR leaders.
In a press conference this afternoon, Cheah admitted to meeting the former Penang PKR Wanita chief, but said it was in his personal capacity. He also “categorically denied” the allegations of bribery made against him by Aminah.Lim and party lawyer Ong Chin Wen were also present at the press conference.
Cheah said he and Lim had lunch with Aminah at her house on 13 May 2009 in their personal capacities.
Aminah Abdullah revealing the CD at a
press conference yesterday
“It was all very jovial and light-hearted, and we talked about everything under the sun,” he said, adding that they had not received party orders or authorisation to negotiate with Aminah.
Therefore, he said he found it “sad, wrong, misleading and misguided” for Aminah to have recorded the conversation.
“She has converted bona fide chit chat, something that was in good faith, into something ugly. Any civilised, rational person would agree with me that this is in bad taste,” he said.
According to both men, they had known Aminah for nearly 10 years, and had remained friendly with her even after she left PKR in 2007.
“We would go to her house for kenduri and Hari Raya celebrations, and we even went to her daughter’s engagement kenduri in March this year,” said Cheah.
Lim added: “I feel sad and hurt that she has resorted to this.”
When asked whether they had indeed offered Aminah the posts of Deputy Chief Minister 1 and president of a local council, Cheah said, “We didn’t offer her anything. We were there in our personal capacity; therefore we weren’t even in a position to offer her anything.”
When asked again to clarify if they had tried to bribe Aminah, Cheah said, “We know that it was all jovial and light-hearted, and that we have been misinterpreted. You had better go and check with her again.”
Cheah also pleaded with reporters several times not to “sensationalise” the issue.
“If you go on asking me about this, you are just digging at something you are not supposed to be digging,” he said.
When asked if he would still consider being friends with Aminah and her family after this incident, Cheah said, “I have mixed feelings.”
Report lodged with EC, MACC investigating
Meanwhile, earlier today, Aminah lodged a report with the Election Commission (EC) about the alleged bribery attempt.
Together with her husband Mohd Rofi Osman, Aminah submitted a CD copy of the audio recording of the conversation between her and the PKR leaders, and three still images taken with a mobile phone camera.
When asked how she could verify that the images and audio recording were authentic, Aminah said to reporters: “I assure you the pictures and the audio recording are of the same meeting.”
Rofi clarified that there were three separate meetings between two PKR leaders and Aminah between 13 May and 22 May 2009.
“We are submitting only the recording of the first meeting to the EC, because we have not had time to transfer the recordings of the other meetings into a CD,” he said.
EC chief administrative officer Normah Shaari said she would accept Aminah’s parcel on behalf of Penang EC chief Morat Pora, who was away at a briefing.
Rofi also said they had lodged a police report to the Central Seberang Perai District Police headquarters yesterday because Aminah now feared for her safety.
Aminah and Rofi also clarified that they were called in by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to give details on the bribery attempt.
“The MACC said just come in for a little while – we ended up there from 4.30pm to 10pm,” said Aminah, who added that they would be going to the MACC again today to give their full statement.
Rofi said they had given all three recordings and still images to the MACC, which has confirmed that it has begun investigating Aminah’s claims.
Saifuddin reiterated that PKR has sent a legal notice to Aminah, asking her to withdraw her allegations, apologise or pay damages to the party “for defaming [it] for her own personal gains”.
He said the letter was sent to Aminah’s house on 26 May. Aminah, however, denied receiving any such letter when asked during her EC press conference.