Two political parties today demanded that Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi step down as deputy prime minister until his Yayasan Akalbudi case is resolved, and also threatened to hold a demonstration if the attorney general (AG) does not charge Zahid again for the same case within five days.
In a letter to AG Datuk Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh dated today, the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) stated their protest against the Attorney General’s Chambers’ (AGC) application last Monday for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) on all 47 charges against Zahid in the Yayasan Akalbudi trial. The prosecution’s application led to the High Court granting a DNAA order.
After listing the events that took place before the prosecution decided to discontinue the trial and sought a DNAA on Zahid, both Muda and PSM said these developments were very confusing to the public and also caused anger that a very important national institution for democracy was now allegedly being used for the current government’s political purposes.
“Because the accused is a deputy prime minister and the prosecution is from the AGC’s under the Prime Minister’s Department, there is a conflict of interest on the prosecution’s side. This raises the question of whether the prosecution can carry out their responsibility transparently.
“This incident of applying for DNAA is seen as the government’s subtle interference towards a court case purely to protect their political interests,” the two political parties claimed.
Muda and PSM voiced their fear that the country’s institutions that form the foundation of democracy in Malaysia, especially the AG, have now “lost credibility” due to the decision made to seek a DNAA in Zahid’s case.
The two parties urged for serious measures to be taken to curb negative perception towards the country’s management and to fix the negative effects due to the discontinued trial, and also listed three demands to be carried out in the spirit of reformation which forms the current government’s basis.
The three demands that Muda and PSM listed to the AG are for the AGC’s to give a full explanation in Parliament regarding its decision to stop the trial against Zahid; for a clear timeline to be given for the separation of the AG’s and the public prosecutor’s roles to minimise any conflict of interest; and for the public prosecutor to recharge Zahid and for the Yayasan Akalbudi case to be continued until a concrete resolution by the court is achieved.
“Besides that, we also demand that DPM Zahid Hamidi step down as deputy prime minister until this case is resolved to avoid any conflict of interest.
“We from Muda and PSM demand for all our demands to be carried out within five working days, or before September 18, 2023. If there is no satisfactory response before this date, we will continue with the act of demonstrating in the spirit of democracy to raise the voice of Malaysians’ disappointment,” the two parties said.
The letter was signed off by Muda secretary-general Amir Abdul Hadi and PSM Youth chief Arveent Kathirtchelvan.
Among other things, the duo had highlighted that the prosecution’s DNAA application came after representations made to the AGC, saying that the first representation letter on December 8, 2022, came more than three years after the trial began in November 2019 and also after the 15th general election as well as after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s appointment as prime minister on November 24, 2022 and after the full Cabinet list was announced on December 2, 2022.
Muda and PSM in the same letter also highlighted that Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran who was leading the prosecution team for Zahid’s Yayasan Akalbudi trial was reported in August to have applied to retire early since April 3 and would no longer be leading the prosecution, saying this was shocking. Raja Rozela was announced to have been replaced with the AGC’s Appellate and Trial Division head Datuk Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar to lead the prosecution in that case.
The two political parties also referred to the former AG Tan Sri Idrus Harun being alleged to have wished to apply for a DNAA in Zahid’s case before his tenure ended on September 5.
On September 8, Anwar reportedly said no instruction was given to the AG regarding Zahid’s case, and said it was Idrus who decided to seek a DNAA in the trial.
Zahid, who is also Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, was facing 47 charges in this case, namely, 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to over RM31 million of his charitable organisation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges of over RM21.25 million in alleged bribes.
On September 5, the AGC issued a brief two-paragraph statement to say that the High Court had accepted the prosecution’s reasons in seeking for a DNAA and had said the prosecution had given cogent reasons for the DNAA.
Following criticism from the Malaysian Bar, the newly-appointed AG Ahmad Terrirudin in a six-page statement on September 8 stressed that any exercise of the AG’s discretion to discontinue trials is not done simply or due to interference from any quarters but will purely be after the AG takes into account justice for all and for the administration of justice.
Among other things, the AG also reiterated the list of 11 reasons given by the prosecution in the High Court when discontinuing Zahid’s trial.
The AG also highlighted the AGC cannot simply reject any representations sent in by accused persons and that its duty is not to convict a person at all costs but to ensure the legal process is upheld according to the Blackstone Ratio of “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
In that same September 8 statement, the AG said the AGC hopes for an end to speculation on Zahid’s case as both the AGC and investigators are still investigating all new evidence in this case, adding that any decision on whether to charge Zahid again or charge others related to the case will be made after more detailed and comprehensive investigations are complete.
The AG also said the matter regarding the alleged termination of Raja Rozela’s services had already been explained in the AGC’s August 5 statement.
A DNAA means that an accused person can be charged again on the same charges, and legal experts previously told Malay Mail that the trial can continue where it last left off — without having to restart the trial — if a person is charged again after being given a DNAA. – MMO