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Any reasonable person would draw the conclusion that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is somehow linked to the disappearance of P Balasubramaniam, according to the private investigator’s lawyer. “The facts seem to point to the possibility that they wanted him out of the way and delegated this job to others close to them to execute,” said Americk Singh Sidhu (left) in an interview with Malaysiakini. “As matters stand, I am concerned about the involvement of Nazim (Razak), Najib’s younger brother. The question is why would he have an interest in Bala’s disappearance if it were not to protect his brother?” asked Americk.

Balasubramaniam recently emerged from hiding to reveal that he had met Nazim, an architect, the night before he made a dramatic reversal and recanted his first statutory declaration in which he alleged that Najib had close ties with murdered Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu. Balasubramaniam also claimed that he was offered RM5 million by one Deepak, a businessman close to Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, to retract his first statutory declaration. Najib had repeatedly denied speculations that he was behind Balasubramaniam’s retraction. In the interview, Americk recounted how he was introduced to Balasubramaniam, on his reaction to the retraction of Balasuubramaniam’s first statutory declaration and his subsequent meeting with the former police officer after he emerged from hiding a year later.

The lawyer also revealed that the video recording of his interview with Balasubramaniam three months ago was secretly taken as an “insurance in the event he was apprehended by the parties involved in his departure from this country over a year ago”. “He did not know he was being filmed at that time but we did inform him of this later and he understood why we did it,” said Americk. According to him, while Balasubramaniam may have committed an offence under the Statutory Declarations Act 1960 for giving conflicting statutory declarations, he could nevertheless defend himself against the charge as it “would appear he was coerced, intimidated and/or forced to sign the second statutory declaration under duress”. But those who allegedly instigated the swearing of the false second statutory declaration – Deepak, one ASP Suresh and lawyer M Arunampalam – are also liable to criminal charges for abetment and conspiracy, added Americk. “In so far as Nazim is concerned, he was involved in criminal intimidation of Bala besides a possibility of being roped into the abetment/conspiracy charges arising from the creation of the second false statutory declaration.”

Malaysiakini: When did you first meet Bala?

Americk: I first met Bala sometime in April or May 2008. I was having some early evening drinks with some lawyer friends of mine at ‘Fogles’, which is a delicatessen/bar at Plaza Damas. We were later joined by ASP Suresh and Bala. One of the lawyers I was with, M Puravalen, introduced me to them. I had no idea who they were before that. I had not been following the Altantuya case very closely so I had not realised that Abdul Razak Baginda had a private investigator assisting him and this was Bala. I then started enquiring about this whole saga out of curiosity. Puravalen had been involved in the Altantuya case as he was the first counsel Abdul Razak Baginda had engaged before he was discharged and a new counsel engaged, and so he enlightened me as regards the more salient facts. I am not sure how ASP Suresh featured in all this but he appeared to be a good friend of Bala’s and appeared to have his interests at heart. Eventually some of the other lawyers left and the restaurant started closing so we decided to move on to ‘The Backyard’ pub in Sri Hartamas, which is only a short distance away from Plaza Damas. There were four of us Bala, myself, ASP Suresh and Valen.

We were drinking and still discussing the whole Altantuya murder case as I found it fascinating. Sometime later (Subang MP and lawyer) Sivarasa Rasiah walked in. I know Siva as he is also a friend, but we are not very close. We asked him to join us. He also listened to what Bala had to say and after that suggested Bala get someone to record everything. Somehow I was chosen to do this as everyone felt I was the one lawyer who did not have an agenda in this matter as I was someone neutral. I agreed and that was when I made an appointment for Bala to come to my office so that I could record all he had to say. The recordings occurred about two or three times over a period of about two months and lasted a few hours each time.

Malaysiakini: How did you feel when Bala came out with the second statutory declaration? Did you attempt to contact him?

I received a call from a member of the press at about 9.30am on July 4, 2008 asking me why my client, Bala, had called a press conference for 11am that morning at the Prince hotel. I was a little surprised as I had no idea what this was about so I proceeded to call Bala, who did not answer his phone. I then proceeded to make further enquiries only to find out that Bala had purportedly been represented by another lawyer, one Arunampalam who had spoken to the press at that press conference on behalf of Bala and had said that Bala was retracting the contents of his first SD as he had been forced to sign it under duress. When I came to know of this press conference and what transpired thereat, I was absolutely flabbergasted. Bala and I had spent two months and many hours over the first SD to ensure it was absolutely correct and for him to deny the contents in the space of 24 hours did seem incredible to me.

Bala had anticipated that he would be arrested by the police after releasing the first statutory declaration and he told me so. This is why he had handed over his mobile phone to me for safe keeping before he left my office the evening before as he did not want the police to download information from it. We were therefore preparing for his arrest and then to go to the police station he was being held at to represent him. I never expected him to have been ‘hijacked’ by the personalities involved, and I am sure, neither did he. It is also worth mentioning here that this lawyer, Arunampalam, was not engaged by Bala to represent him at the press conference at the Prince hotel despite the fact that Arunampalam has said Bala called him and asked him to do so. This is a blatant lie. Bala does not know this man and had never met him prior to that press conference. In fact, it is well-known that Arunamalam does legal work for Deepak and this can be substantiated quite easily. There is no doubt in my mind that Bala was forced, coerced, threatened and intimidated into signing the second statutory declaration.


Anwar Ibrahim
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Azmin Ali

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim last night continued to shore up the spirits of PKR members by reminding those attending the party’s Federal Territory convention here that Kuala Lumpur was the birthplace of “Refomasi”. Refomasi was the “battle-cry” of the movement which took to the streets to support Anwar after he was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998. The de-facto PKR leader, who was speaking to members at the De Palma Hotel, reminisced about the early struggles, his arrest and subsequent detention. He urged PKR members to stay the course and warned them against betraying the party, now plagued by infighting.

Anwar has been attending PKR conventions across the nation to shore up the party. He pointed out that Barisan National (BN) was almost wiped out in Kuala Lumpur in the last general elections because voters wanted to punish them and wanted change. “Change or we will undertake change on your behalf,” warned Anwar. The federal opposition leader also continued to defend his appointment as economic advisor to the Selangor government. He said the move was to aid Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim defend against the continuous BN onslaught led by the prime minister, who had indicated their desire to win back Selangor.

Due to the attacks, Anwar said he had Khalid — who was formerly PKR chief for both Selangor and Kuala Lumpur — concentrate his efforts on governing the state. Besides being Ijok state lawmaker, Khalid is also member of parliament for Bandar Tun Razak, in Kuala Lumpur. Gombak MP Azmin Ali was recently appointed as Kuala Lumpur chief. The end of Anwar’s speech was marked with loud shouts of “Refomasi!.

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PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang today told the party faithful that they will remain in Pakatan Rakyat as it has gained more with the opposition pact than by struggling alone. He explained to a crucial party seminar that PAS will cast its fortunes with PR due to the political reality of both Muslim and non-Muslim voters in Malaysia. "PAS will remain in Pakatan Rakyat due to the realitiy of politics where there are Muslim and non-Muslim voters," Hadi told the 1,000 party delegates at the PAS Markaz Tarbiyyah in Gombak here. The party president also pointed that PAS had previously formed a mixed government but had failed, thus requiring the need to be part of PR.

"PAS has gained more ground with Pakatan Rakyat even by just losing one by-election in Bagan Pinang," he added, alluding to the alliance's first by-election loss in the peninsula since Election 2008. He earlier said PAS was formed to fulfll the orders of Allah and it had long struggled on its own. The seminar will discuss PAS's future direction but could well throw up the need for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to decide the fundamental issue of whether to co-operate with Umno to advance Islam and Malay unity or stay with PR and hope to capture federal power in the forthcoming general election.

The seminar is unlikely to resolve the fundamental difference over the issues and which course to take to safeguard the future of PAS — how best to capitalise on the new forces at work in the political system to stay ahead. Abdul Hadi was flanked by spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and party vice-president Salahuddin Ayub when he opened the seminar. Nik Aziz later left as he is unwell. Among those speaking at the seminar is UIA law academic Professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari, who had started the debate when he criticised the party leadership's ambivalence to issues. Abdul Aziz pointed out the seminar was not about unseating Abdul Hadi but about PAS's direction as an Islamist party.

"The pattern in the next general election will be different, it won't be ABU, Anything But Umno," the law professor said. UM lecturer Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah also told the seminar that his survey before the last general election showed youths preferred Nik Aziz over Abdul Hadi. Another vice-president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man is also on the list of speakers. Tuan Ibrahim is also heading the disciplinary committee probing Selangor PAS over allegations that the leaders have bad-mouthed the party leadership.

Why arrest Dr Asri?

t’s easy to speculate why Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin was arrested last night for preaching in Selangor without a permit. A raft of reasons has already circulated, and even the maverick scholar alludes to hidden hands in his detention. Is it because he is closer to PAS than Umno? Or has it anything to do with Asri’s purported appointment as chief of Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim)? Perhaps because he is seen to be a Wahhabi, the austere and puritanical school of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps he is too progressive for Muslim Malaysians? Perhaps he is seen as a threat to other muftis?

After all, Asri is young and popular, gliding and mixing among the liberal Muslims and the political elite in Kuala Lumpur, despite his short stint as the Perlis mufti. It could be for one or all of these reasons that Asri now finds himself on the wrong end of the Syariah law last night. His crime, ostensibly, is to have given lectures without authorisation — despite it being in a private house, and in a country where hundreds preach daily with or without similar “blessings” in houses, suraus, schools or mosques. His greater crime is just being who he is — a maverick scholar who speaks about Islam without all the fluff. Perhaps like the Wahhabis who don’t even celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birthday or consign their ruler to an unmarked grave upon his death.

Truth is, he has never been liked by his fellow muftis, who saw him as an upstart, not yet grey enough in the head or beard to be taken seriously. He is simple, direct and has a weblog; a superstar preacher shaking the authority of his peers. Even the man ambivalent about the religious elite, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has taken a liking to Asri and has told him to remain bipartisan and equidistant among Muslims politicians divided between Umno and PAS. But PAS has been courting Asri. And so has Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who has recommended him to head Yadim, the state-sponsored missionary group. It is currently led by the PAS-turned-Umno man Datuk Mohd Nakhaie Ahmad, and his replacement — especially Asri — would be a boost for Umno’s Islamist credentials in the next general elections.

But the Syarie Lawyers Association (PGSM) has opposed Asri’s appointment on grounds he has defamed some of Islam’s illustrious imams, a charge the scholar has denied. He also appears to have rejected the Yadim appointment due to the blatant opposition towards him. It well maybe that his arrest yesterday was for petty and private reasons related to Yadim, and old scores being settled now that he has returned from his post-graduate studies in the United Kingdom. Many thought Asri would stay on in the West or return to teaching in Universiti Sains Malaysia. But his popularity and lectures among the capital elite has probably turned them green with envy.

And what better way to cut him down to size than by arresting him for the simple offence of preaching without a permit. After all, if a man can’t follow the law, can he be trusted to enforce the law? Who knows? What is clear is that baser instincts and motives govern those who enforce Islamic religious laws in Malaysia, making them as human as the ones they think are sinning against the faith and Allah.

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