PETALING JAYA: Umno has decried the Penang High Court’s decision to acquit Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng of corruption.
The party’s secretary-general, Annuar Musa, took to Twitter to pour scorn on Pakatan Harapan (PH) over its oft-repeated claim that it respects and upholds the rule of law.
“Goodbye, rule of law,” he said. “In Malaysia, you do no wrong once you are in power. Courts are only meant for the opposition.”
He disclosed that many reporters had asked him to comment on the attorney-general’s (AG) decision to withdraw the charge against Lim and the court’s decision to free him.
“My comment is this: let the people judge,” he said.
Judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail yesterday decided to discharge and acquit Lim and businesswoman Phang Li Koon of related corruption charges although the prosecution had asked her to consider only a discharge not amounting to acquittal.
Hadhariah agreed with defence counsel that it would not be right to leave a cloud hanging over their heads.
Lim was charged on June 30, 2016, with using his public office to obtain gratification for himself and his wife by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem to convert agricultural land for residential purposes during a state exco meeting in July 2014.
He was also charged with using his position to obtain gratification by purchasing a bungalow from Phang at RM2.8 million, which was said to have a market value of RM4.7 million.
Phang was charged with abetting him.
Another Umno personage, Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, criticised the AG’s office for what he called its “selective non-prosecution”.
“Shame on the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC),” he said. “This decision stinks to high heaven and undermines the chambers’ commitment to the rule of law.”
Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said, who heads Umno’s legal unit, accused AG Tommy Thomas of giving preferential treatment to PH leaders.
“The decision to acquit and discharge Guan Eng puts a damper on the credibility of the AG’s office,” she said in a press statement.
“The AG must explain the matter clearly as this could give rise to a negative perception which can be a threat to the doctrine of separation of powers in the country and result in the people losing trust in the country’s administrative system.”
She noted that deputy public prosecutor Abdul Rashid Daud, in his opening statement at the start of the corruption proceedings, had said the prosecution would prove Lim had bought a house from Phang at a price known to be below market rate and that he had, at the time the purchase was made, allowed an application by Phang’s company to change the status of agriculture land to one meant for housing.
“So this begs the question of how the AGC can say there is no case against the two of them and withdraw the charges. This does not make sense at all.
“It shows the AG appointed by the PH government has already begun abusing his discretionary powers provided under the law and is giving preferential treatment and favouritism to PH leaders.”
She urged the Malaysian Bar Council to convene an emergency meeting and state its stand on the matter.