Absence of appeal in Liong Sik acquittal suspicious, say lawyer, MP

Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, putting a finger to his lips, declined to comment after the court acquitted him from the cheating charges over the PKFZ land purchase. October 25, 2013. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, putting a finger to his lips, declined to comment after the court acquitted him from the cheating charges over the PKFZ land purchase. October 25, 2013. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) decision to not challenge Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik’s acquittal over the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal was dubious when it appeals even redundant cases, according to two critics today.

When contacted today, civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan described the decision as “baffling, to say the least”, contrasting it to what he categorised as the AGC’s swiftness in appealing against court rulings that were in favour of human rights.

“The AGC has always been quick to appeal against the decisions that promote human rights and constitutionalism and also decisions in favour of opposition politicians, but when it is a decision that concerns allegations of corruption against a former Cabinet member, the AGC has decided not to pursue the appeal,” he told The Malay Mail Online in an email reply.

“As an example; in the UKM4 case the AGC decided to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal in favour of the 4 former students, even when the matter has become academic as the law has been amended and the 4 are no longer students,” he added.

Syahredzan was referring to the case of four Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) students who were charged under now-amended Section 15 (5)(a) of the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) for their alleged presence during the 2010 Hulu Selangor by-election campaign.

The High Court found that the clause barring university students’ participation in politics was unconstitutional, but the matter was brought by the AGC to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, where the apex court struck out the case on November 22, 2012 as it was by then “academic”.

Today, Syahredzan also questioned the rationale behind the AGC’s decision.

“Is the AGC taking the stand that there would be no merits in the appeal? Is it because the case was weak from the start, or is it because there is a flaw in the prosecution of the case by the AGC itself?

“If the case was weak from the start, why is it that they decided to prosecute? If there are weaknesses in the prosecution, then questions should certainly be asked as to why these weaknesses are there,” he said.

DAP’s veteran leader Lim Kit Siang said the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail should “step down”, claiming that it was the straw that broke the camel’s back in an alleged “series of miscarriages of justice” by the former.

“How can a minister, a so-called grand corruption case brought to court be allowed to be lost in such a scandalous manner and there’s no appeal?” Lim asked when contacted, claiming that it meant that the government’s top prosecutor did not even believe in his own case.

“The AG must be responsible for his own charges, the charges preferred against Liong Sik in this case,” Lim said, saying that it was not a case involving mere “small fry”.

Lim insisted that “the sense of honour demands” that Abdul Gani steps down.

He said the case was a test of the government’s “sincerity” in fighting corruption, going on to equate the AGC’s decision not to appeal to the alleged failure of the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration in combating graft.

But Syahredzan disagreed that the AG should resign over the case involving Dr Ling.

“Personally, I do not think that the AG should step down solely because of this case. But the AGC should at the very least explain its decision,” he said.

When contacted yesterday, the case’s lead prosecutor Datuk Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah merely said “no appeal” in a brief text message to The Malay Mail Online.

Tun Abdul Majid, who is also Deputy Solicitor-General II, did not provide the reasons behind the AGC’s decision to not proceed with an appeal in the high-profile case.

On October 25, High Court judge Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi ruled that Dr Ling’s lawyers managed to raise reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case and acquitted the former MCA president from the cheating charges hanging over his head for the past few years.

The trial started in August 2011, with Dr Ling ordered to enter his defence on March 9 last year while the defence closed its case on June 20 this year.

Dr Ling, who was Malaysia’s transport minister for 17 years from January 1986 to May 2003, was charged in July 2010 with deceiving the Cabinet into approving the land purchase for the PKFZ project, despite knowing that the approval would result in wrongful losses for the government.

Dr Ling also faced two alternative charges of deceiving the Cabinet into believing that the land purchase’s terms — at RM25 psf plus 7.5 per cent interest — had the acknowledgment and agreement of the Land Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) despite knowing that there was no such agreement.

The criminal offences were allegedly committed between September 25 and November 6 in 2002, a few months before he stopped serving as a transport minister.