COMMENT "It is dangerous to be right in matters about which the established authorities (government) are wrong.” - Voltaire
This is what 17th Century philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet, who is better known as Voltaire, had written in describing a government - and this could well be appropriate in explaining the actions of deposed deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
The quote by Voltaire was pointed to me by lawyer Rosli Dahlan, and it may ring bells for our civil servants who are members of the special task force investigating the 1MDB, as well as for the former Public Accounts Committee members who moved to join the reshuffled cabinet.
The swift move by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in first removing Abdul Gani Patail as attorney-general (AG) yesterday and removing his deputy and critic Muhyiddin hours later, as well as appointing four BN PAC members probing the 1MDB affair into his cabinet, is being seen as akin to obstruction of justice.
Never in the history of the country - perhaps besides the removal of former Lord President of the (then) Supreme Court Mohamed Salleh Abas in a tribunal in 1988 following the decision to declare Umno unlawful - has a sitting AG been removed while being part of a task force investigating the prime minister.
Najib went a step further besides removing Gani - by also dismissing his deputy and appointing Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the senior most Umno vice-president as the new deputy prime minister, and pulling former PAC members Nur Jazlan Mohamed, Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Mas Ermieyati Samsudin and Wilfred Madius Tangau into his cabinet.
The questions foremost on everybody’s mind now are: will the former PAC members use their knowledge about the 1MDB scandal to help cover up the investigations? Or would they have the integrity to let the new PAC members continue to function, without any interruption?
Another pertinent question among Malaysians will certainly be whether Najib would allow the work of the special task force on the 1MDB investigation, which has remained quiet following Gani's removal, and the remand of several officials related to the investigations, to continue.
Najib’s move against Muhyiddin is pointed to the Umno deputy president’s frank talk at the Cheras Umno division on Sunday, about his concern that Umno and BN may not win the 14th general election following the 1MDB scandal and his concern over the lack of explanation of the sovereign fund in the cabinet that required him to read The Edge.
As reported today, the fifth and last person taken into remand in the 1MDB investigation, a despatch rider, has been released on bail of RM50,000.
Is Gani's removal legal?
Some observers say that Gani's removal, despite his many alleged wrongdoings as the AG, played a pivotal role in halting the investigations.
This follows speculation, after the arrest and remand of five individuals in connection with the investigations since last week, that Najib could be next in the list, even hinted at by veteran newsman A Kadir Jasin.
By removing Gani, a member of the task force and a public prosecutor who has constitutional power to formulate criminal charges, appointing PAC members into the cabinet and thus derailing the PAC inquiry, and possibly using the former PAC members to abet in clamping the investigation, are all seen as akin to obstruction of justice.
The four former PAC members from the ruling BN could have also acted in conflict of interest by abandoning and abdicating their role in PAC and using their knowledge as PAC members to provide the defence for the now alleged crime of Najib.
With the audit report on 1MDB not being made public, the disruption in the PAC inquiry and the removal of Gani from the task force investigation have somewhat put the brakes on the investigation against Najib, as observed by DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang.
PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man has also questioned the move to discredit Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, who is also a member of the task force, in a bid to put down the task force investigation.
Criminal intimidation involved?
Gani's removal, it is observed, will certainly have an intimidating effect on the task force if it decides to continue with the investigations into 1MDB and the funds put into Najib’s personal bank accounts.
Will the new AG Mohamed Apandi Ali (photo), a known former Kelantan Umno treasurer, act independently after seeing what happened to Gani?
Consider also the offence of criminal intimidation, under Section 503 of the Penal Code, if one cares to look at and ponder on yesterday's moves by Najib.
And hence, the Voltaire quote above is apt in these trying times of Malaysian-style democracy, where “it is dangerous to be right in matters about which the established authorities (government) are wrong”.
Rosli Dahlan also told me there should be no confusion about yesterday's events.
This lawyer sees an obstruction of justice in the sudden removal and termination of Gani from carrying out his duties in the task force, while the PAC had been effectively scuttled when four of them accepted the offers to join Najib’s cabinet.
“They could also be abetting in the obstruction of justice and betraying their role in the PAC, which was prior to and in conflict with their duties owed to Parliament on the outcome of the Auditor-General's Interim Report on 1MDB.
“Let us hope the former PAC members will not use the information they have obtained to ring the fence and protect the prime minister, or expose themselves to perjury, destruction of evidence, refuse to sign statements by investigators or refuse to answer questions as PAC members,” Rosli (photo) said.
Rosli, who along with former Commercial Crime Investigations Department director Ramli Yusof had filed court action against Gani, also had some advice to the former AG:
“If it is true you are sick, as stated by Chief Secretary Ali Hamsa, I pray that you, Gani, will turn to fighting for the truth, justice and fairness and not abuse the system or the powers vested in you.