PETALING JAYA: A criminal lawyer has asked an anti-graft group to stop singling out Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng for holding public office despite corruption charges hanging over his head.
S N Nair said the hallowed legal principle that one was innocent until proven guilty must be upheld.
“C4 is barking up the wrong tree,” Nair said in reference to the acronym Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism.
Its executive director Cynthia Gabriel said the NGO was “troubled” that Lim had been appointed despite Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad saying the DAP secretary-general could only take office after he had been cleared of the charges.
Gabriel acknowledged that there was no legal provision to prevent Lim’s appointment pending his corruption case, but noted that there were good governance principles which underlay the importance of Mahathir’s earlier statement.
Nair said this was a country of laws and “we must abide by laws and not social rhetoric”.
He said in 2008, a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) implicated Mahathir and five others for judicial fixing. The RCI recommended further investigation with the view to frame criminal charges.
Nair said last year another RCI concluded there were elements of hidden facts and information relating to forex losses suffered by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and misleading statements given to the Cabinet, Parliament and the public.
The report said BNM suffered a total loss of RM31.5 billion between 1992 and 1994.
The RCI proposed that the police open investigations into possible criminal breach of trust or cheating by various parties, including Mahathir and then finance minister (1991-1998) Anwar Ibrahim.
Special mention was made of ex-Bank Negara adviser Nor Mohamed Yakcop, whom the report named as “principally liable for criminal breach of trust” while Daim Zainuddin, another former finance minister (1984-1991), was said to have aided and abetted Nor Mohamed.
Nair said Gabriel was unfairly picking on Lim because, if she were to apply the same principle, she should also say the same of Mahathir and Daim, who is chairman of the Council of Elders working to help revive the Malaysian economy.
“If she goes by the narrative she uses against Lim, then she should apply the same principle on the rest,” he said.
Nair said it did not matter whether the attorney-general had framed charges against Lim or the RCIs had criminally implicated Mahathir and the rest.
“In both instances they are considered tainted and therefore Gabriel should cry out that the same rule should apply to all,” he said.
In any event, Nair said Lim and those implicated in the forex losses claim the decision by the AG and RCI last year were politically motivated under the previous BN regime.
He said it was only fair for the new government to quickly appoint an independent AG to review the charges against Lim.
In 2016, Lim was charged with using his public office to obtain gratification for himself and his wife 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 businesswoman Phang Li Koon at below the market price.