KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today agreed in the High Court that the principle of rule of law in Malaysia means that everyone should have the same laws applied to them, regardless of their influence or wealth.
He said this while testifying as a defence witness in his ongoing trial over 47 charges of corruption, money laundering and criminal breach.
Asked by lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran during cross-examination, Ahmad Zahid agreed that Malaysia has laws to combat corruption and that the Federal Constitution has provided that all Malaysians are in an equal position under the law.
Raja Rozela: This principle of rule of law means that someone regardless of their position, poor or rich, having power or having influence, all are subject to the same laws?
Ahmad Zahid: Correct, but not selective prosecution.
Raja Rozela then repeated the question: The principle of rule of law means that someone no matter their position, are all subject to the same law, answer yes or no, agree or not.
At this point, the judge asked Ahmad Zahid to answer the question and explained that he would be given a chance later to clarify his answer when asked by his own lawyers at the re-examination stage.
Ahmad Zahid then agreed to the question posed.
Raja Rozela then sought to highlight a hypothetical situation where a politician and a gardener were to be charged under the same laws and suggested it would only be the politician who could claim that the charges against him is a politically motivated conspiracy.
Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers however objected to this question, and the prosecution agreed to reserve this for submissions as suggested by the judge.
Ahmad Zahid then agreed his claim of having been politically persecuted through this trial was based only on his role as a politician.
Raja Rozela: Datuk Seri labelled this case that is being prosecuted against you as a politically motivated persecution, purely on the reason that you are a politician, correct?
Ahmad Zahid: Yes.
Ahmad Zahid claimed that the alleged politically motivated prosecution was a “reality”, insisting that this was what “happened to me and a few other politicians who were dragged to face charges in court”.
Asked by Raja Rozela if he agreed that no evidence given by the prosecution throughout this trial can be seen or linked as being politically motivated other than the fact that he is a politician, Ahmad Zahid replied: “From the aspect of charges, I agree, but from the way the prosecution was conducted I disagree.”
However, when asked if he had been given the widest possible space to defend himself according to the legal process since the trial began until now, Ahmad Zahid agreed.
Ahmad Zahid also confirmed that until now, he continues to hold the same political positions which he was holding in late 2018 when he was first charged in this trial.
These positions which Ahmad Zahid continues to hold are Umno president, Barisan Nasional chairman, member of Parliament for Bagan Datuk and Bagan Datuk Umno division chief.
Ahmad Zahid confirmed that apart from himself who is a trustee of the charity Yayasan Akalbudi and several other trustees who also happen to be politicians, the other politicians — including those which he mentioned yesterday — had nothing to do with Yayasan Akalbudi.
He also confirmed that no one has ever asked him to deregister Yayasan Akalbudi’s registration with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, also confirming that no one such as the prime minister or deputy prime minister had ever threatened him to stop becoming Yayasan Akalbudi’s trustee.
Raja Rozela also at one point remarked that she felt Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad — who was briefly prime minister again from May 2018 to February 2020 — himself may not know about Ahmad Zahid’s Yayasan Akalbudi and that there are many other more important things for Dr Mahathir to think about.
Earlier, Ahmad Zahid disagreed that it would be reasonable to say that politics and money cannot be separated but had also said that money is required to carry out political activities, having remarked: “Money is not everything, but everything needs money.”
Ahmad Zahid also agreed with Raja Rozela that corruption is still worrying in Malaysia and that it must be fought.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid — who is also a former home minister — is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.