Judge disqualifies himself, so LGE, Phang case adjourned again

limguaneng-Phang-Li-KoonPUTRAJAYA: The appeal hearing of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon in a case related to their corruption trial was postponed for the second time after the judge disqualified himself.

Court of Appeal judge Idrus Harun recused himself following an application by defence lawyers that an issue that would be raised in this appeal had been decided by the judge two weeks ago.

“There is merit in the application, after having considered their recusal application,” Idrus said in the packed courtroom.

The appeal will now be heard before a new bench on Aug 7.

On April 27, the bench led by justice Ummi Kalthum Abdul Majid, Abdul Rahman Sebli and Idrus postponed the appeal as the court had discovered a defect in the order made by the Penang High Court deputy registrar.

Today, lawyer Gobind Singh Deo, representing Lim, said Idrus had, in another case, given a narrow interpretation on the meaning of life and personal liberty under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution.

“You were wrong on that and we will be filing an appeal to the Federal Court,” he said.

On July 5, Idrus had said the clause would only aid those who were unlawfully detained and could not be extended to those who wanted to challenge their right to travel.

Idrus, who wrote the judgment, had dismissed Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua’s appeal to challenge the Immigration director-general’s decision to stop him from leaving Malaysia without giving any reason.

Lawyer V Sithambaram, appearing for Phang , said public confidence in the judiciary would erode if Idrus were to sit in this case.

“Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done,” he added.

Government lawyer Masri Daud said the recusal application should be dismissed as Idrus had sat with two other judges to decide in Pua’s case.

In March, justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail dismissed a motion filed by Lim and Phang to declare Section 62 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act (MACC) as unconstitutional.

She had said one was presumed innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof continued to lie with the prosecution.

“There is no justification to deem Section 62 as unconstitutional and it does not contravene Articles 5(1) and 8(1) of the Federal Constitution”, she had added.

Section 62 states that once the accused is given the relevant documents by the prosecution before a trial, the defence is required to give a defence statement.

On June 30 last year , Lim was charged with using his public office to obtain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew, by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd to convert agricultural land for residential purposes.

Lim was also alleged to have used his position to obtain gratification by purchasing a bungalow from Phang for RM2.8 million, below the property’s market value of RM4.7 million on July 28, 2015.

Lim and Phang,who is charged with abetting him, have pleaded not guilty to the charges.