Asian African legal group protests Putrajaya’s removal of immunity for ex-arbitration chief

Former Asian International Centre for Arbitration’s (AIAC) director Datuk Sundra Rajoo Nadarajah (centre) leaves the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur March 26, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Former Asian International Centre for Arbitration’s (AIAC) director Datuk Sundra Rajoo Nadarajah (centre) leaves the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur March 26, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — The Asian African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO) is protesting against the government’s move to strip Datuk Sundra Rajoo Nadarajah, the former director of the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC), of his diplomatic immunity and the charges against him.

AALCO secretary-general Prof Dr Kennedy Gastorn also said the group is disassociating itself from the charges, in a letter to Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong and, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull.

“I am therefore protesting and disassociating AALCO from these charges as they, on the face of them, contravene the Host Country Agreement as stipulated in the Letter,” Gastorn said in the letter.

He criticised Attorney General Tommy Thomas’ move to strip Sundra Rajoo of diplomatic immunity accorded senior AIAC officials.

“I believe that the question of immunity of a former High Officer of AIAC under Article III (6) of the Host Country Agreement from criminal jurisdiction of Malaysia, as determined by the Minister pursuant to Act 485 (Malaysia) does not become irrelevant because the request for the waiver of the same is refused.

“Nor does it become a matter for a local court to decide, just because AALCO has refused the request of the Government of Malaysia for an agreement to waive the said immunity. I equally do not believe that the disagreement between AALCO and the Government of Malaysia on the waiver, would become a matter for a unilateral prosecutorial discretion of the Attorney General, or even a question of law, directly or indirectly to be decided by a local court,” Gastorn said in the letter which was emailed to the Malay Mail by Sundra Rajoo.

Sundra Rajoo quit the AIAC last November following his arrest by the MACC on suspicion of using public funds to influence ministers to extend his contract with the arbitration body.

Sundra Rajoo, who previously led AIAC for nine years, was released when he invoked diplomatic immunity and has not been charged with a crime.

Thomas invoked his powers as public prosecutor to charge Sundra Rajoo and wrote to Gastorn informing him of the matter.

In his letter, Gastorn also banned the use of any documents belonging to AIAC to be used in court, citing Article III (2) of the Host Country Agreement which deems all such documents as inviolable.

He said that the AALCO also disassociates itself from the decision of the AIAC acting director Vinayak Pradhan’s decision to waive Sundra Rajoo’s immunity, adding that Pradhan cannot be the appropriate authority to strip Sundra Rajoo of his immunity.

“It is inconceivable that acting AIAC director, granted a waiver, which jeopardises interest of AALCO at the pretext of protecting interests of the AIAC, breaches Article III (2) of the Host Country Agreement, against my prior plea to him to preserve integrity of the immunity under the Host Country Agreement, and intending that the validity of his waiver could be determined by the court perhaps as a preliminary issue,” he added.

Sundra Rajoo was charged last month with criminal breach of trust involving over RM1 million of AIAC’s funds.

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