Lawyer’s withdrawal from Adib inquest highlights incompetency within govt, say analysts

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad looks on as Fire and Rescue Department personnel carry Muhammad Adib’s coffin to a helicopter at Subang airport December 18, 2018. — Bernama pic
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad looks on as Fire and Rescue Department personnel carry Muhammad Adib’s coffin to a helicopter at Subang airport December 18, 2018. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — Political analysts called out the government for its lack of co-ordination and competency following the withdrawal by a lawyer representing the Housing and Local Government Ministry in the inquest of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim’s death.

Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas said on Tuesday that Syazlin Mansor — who is also married to Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin’s press secretary — had embarrassed the government by frequently contradicting the deputy public prosecutors (DPPs) during the inquest.

“It is sheer incompetence and a lack of understanding of the function and responsibility of government,” independent analyst Khoo Kay Peng said.

“But the damage is done. They would now have to deal with a bunch of emotional people regardless of the outcome of the inquest.”

Several conservative Muslim groups have voiced suspicion about Syazlin’s abrupt withdrawal from the inquest with just two days left in the proceeding, amid racial sentiments surrounding Adib’s death after he responded to an emergency call during a riot at the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple in Subang Jaya, Selangor last November 27.

Syazlin’s key witness, retired pathologist Dr Shahrom Abdul Wahid, was the only witness who believed that Adib had likely been pulled out from his van and beaten up by the mob, whereas forensic experts, Dr Ahmad Hafizam Hasmi and Datuk Dr Mohd Shah Mahmood, testified that the firefighter’s injuries were inconsistent with assault.

The withdrawal of Syazlin, who was also representing Adib’s family and the Fire and Rescue Department, means that Dr Shahrom will not be able to testify further, though Thomas has said that the DPPs will subpoena the forensic expert for further testimony.

Thomas had also highlighted Syazlin’s conflict of interest by representing three parties, but Syazlin only withdrew from the inquest on May 27, long after she participated in her capacity as counsel for the Housing and Local Government Ministry, the Fire and Rescue Department, and Adib’s family in proceedings that started on February 11.

James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, said Syazlin’s appointment showed “really poor judgement.”

“It was obvious she cannot be representing so different parties and was too close to the minister’s office. How did this happen? Incompetence is the answer,” Chin told Malay Mail.

“One final thing — it looks like to me that no matter the findings of the inquest, the Malay right will not accept. Part of it is due to the contradictory evidence, but the Malay right have already made up their mind.”

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, also said Pakatan Harapan’s reform efforts should sort out the role of the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) and the legal departments in each government agency.

“They should better delineate their respective competencies to avoid such confusion.”

Thomas had said that the Housing and Local Government Ministry and the Fire and Rescue Department should have sought legal advice from the AGC.

Zuraida’s press secretary Ahmad Soffian Mohd Shariff, who is Syazlin’s husband, declined comment when contacted.

Zuraida’s political secretary, Hizwan Ahmad, also declined comment when asked to respond to Thomas’ statement.

The minister from PKR did not respond to questions at the time of writing.

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