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Craving for truth M’sians turn to France

 | July 26, 2011

Bourdon recounts his experience in KLIA and vows to return to pursue the Scorpene case.

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PETALING JAYA: Malaysians craving for the truth have turned to the French courts for answers because none were forthcoming in their country, said prominent French human rights lawyer William Bourdon.

In an interview with FMT from Paris, he said that the growing intolerance for corruption was not exclusive to Malaysia.

“Whatever that is happening here is the same as what is happening in many other countries.

“Citizens who crave democracy cannot stand the culture of corruption which leads to a culture of impunity and then to a restraint of public freedom.

“It is very clear that many Malaysians expect the French proceedings to reveal the truth. In fact they are depending on France for that because they are not getting it from their own country,” he added.

Bourdon had first arrived in Penang on July 21 to speak at his client’s dinner on the controversial Scorpene submarine deal between Malaysia and France.

His speech at the Ops Scorpene fundraising dinner in Bayan Baru had reached – and burnt – government ears, for the lawyer, who was scheduled to give a talk here and in Ipoh, was detained by immigration authorites and sent home the next day.

Speaking about this incident, Bourdon said he thought it odd when he was stopped by two men who asked him to produce his passport before boarding the flight from Penang to Kuala Lumpur.

He thought it even odder that another man was videotaping the inspection.

But when an immigration officer appeared on the Malaysian Airlines aircraft soon after it landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Bourdon understood.

His client, Suaram, had hired Bourdon in 2009 to file a case against French naval giant DCNS over irregularities in the Scorpene deal that allegedly involved millions of ringgit in kickbacks.

The French authorities are currently probing the deal, which was also linked to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Asked why he had agreed to take on the matter, Bourdon replied: “It was a principled case. And my services are not fully pro bono as reported. My expenses are covered.”

“The Penang dinner went very nicely. No authorities were there. And I didn’t disclose anything pertaining to the case as investigations are still ongoing in France.

“I was very prudent with my wording. I’m not a fool. I didn’t have anything specific to disclose and only spoke on information that has already been made public,” said the 55-year-old lawyer.

All very strange

But it was his public assurance that the truth would be exposed once the French investigative judge was picked in September that sealed his fate.

After being escorted off the aircraft, Bourdon said that he was led to a holding centre where the police conducted a “very short and sweet” interview.

“They only asked me two questions,” he recounted. “What was the purpose of my visit to Malaysia and who attended the dinner in Penang.”

Among the guests that night were Batu MP Tian Chua, PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu, DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang and Suaram executive director Cynthia Gabriel.

After the brief interview, Bourdon was transferred to the Immigration Enforcement Division at which point he requested protection from the French Embassy.

“I was treated well,” he said.

“I spoke gently to the policemen and they offered me coffee and cigarettes. But they had no idea what they were meant to do with me. They didn’t know if I should be released, detained or deported,” he added.

The police initially intended to detain Bourdon for three more days until his flight to France on Sunday. But they relented after he protested and insisted on returning that same night on his own cost. Six hours later, Bourdon caught the next flight home.

“It was all very strange,” he said. “I was very surprised at what happened in KLIA as I had acted in full compliance with all national and international laws.”

‘I will return’

Bourdon sounded miffed when told of the government’s allegation that he was being “utilised and victimised” by Suaram and DAP.

“I do not feel victimised and I do not allow myself to be victimised,” he stressed.

“I assume complete responsibility for my presence in Malaysia because I have acted fairly and responsibly as an international lawyer,” he added.

Despite being unceremoniously ushered out of the country, Bourdon was determined to return as soon as possible to fulfil his duties as Suaram’s lawyer.

“I need to see my client as this is a very complex and important case,” he said.

“Limiting my access to my client is a restriction of my professional duties. And as far as I know I am not banned from Malaysia,” he added.

Also read:

Bourdon disputes minister’s claim

Bon voyage Bourdon, Najib strikes again

Bar Council: ‘Absurd to deport Bourdon’

‘DAP, Suaram made use of Bourdon’


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