KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — The prosecution today asked Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to behave himself in the High Court while testifying during his corruption and money laundering trial, pointing out that the court is not a kedai kopi (coffeeshop).
Throughout his cross-examination yesterday and today, lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran had to repeatedly remind Ahmad Zahid to answer her specific questions directly, instead of giving his own explanations that were not directly in reply to her questions.
Raja Rozela and the High Court judge also took the time to explain to Ahmad Zahid about the process of cross-examination of witnesses in a trial, where he is required as a defence witness to answer the prosecution’s questions and that he would be allowed to provide his own explanations to his own lawyers at the re-examination stage.
For example, certain questions asked by the prosecution only required Ahmad Zahid to answer whether he agreed, disagreed or have no comment, as is typical for all other witnesses.
At one point, however, when Ahmad Zahid replied, “Fully agree with that, but...” and was cut off by Raja Rozela who said, “Thank you very much”, Ahmad Zahid immediately shot back with a seemingly sarcastic remark of “Thank you to you too”.
That was when Raja Rozela cautioned him.
“You are being naughty. You must be careful. You are in court, not kedai kopi, not majlis tertinggi, I am reminding you as an officer of court to behave yourself,” she said, referring to the term for coffee shop and supreme council. Ahmad Zahid as the Umno president also sits in Umno supreme council meetings.
Immediately after that, Ahmad Zahid then started answering to the point to Raja Rozela’s questions, such as by stating his disagreement to the prosecution’s questions.
Raja Rozela had to caution Ahmad Zahid, just minutes after she had explained to him again about his role as a witness in court.
“Datuk Seri has to learn to respect the court ya, Datuk Seri, when I ask a question and that question is specific, you please answer the question specifically, unless I ask you to explain. I’m an officer of the court, I and your lawyers are officers of the court. We carry out duties to conduct proceedings for this court,” she said minutes earlier, before her remark reminding him that the court is not a coffeeshop.
Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik interjected to say the judge had previously already provided guidance to Ahmad Zahid on how to answer questions in court.
High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah then suggested that Raja Rozela was making this comment as the witness was still refusing to answer specific questions, noting: “When a specific question is put, the witness is obliged to answer either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I think that’s the reason why she’s making that observation.”
Raja Rozela said she could always ask the witness to give explanations or leave it to his lawyers to ask him to provide further explanations during re-examination.
The judge also said that Ahmad Zahid may of course need to provide explanations sometimes, but said he should answer specific questions.
“But sometimes to contextualise the answer, the witness of course needs to elaborate, but when specific questions are asked, the witness must stick to answering specific questions,” the judge said, with the trial then proceeding.
Before the trial began this morning, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh presented a medical certificate and referral letter to the High Court following his client’s seeking of medical treatment yesterday. The trial yesterday only went on in the morning and could not proceed in the afternoon, as Ahmad Zahid was unwell and had to go to Avisena Hospital for medical attention.
“We just got that this morning, if Yang Arif can see, the medical certificate is for two days, yesterday and today. I wish to inform the court that my client still appeared to provide his testimony although he is still on MC. This shows the sincerity in continuing this case. However, we can have some frequent breaks,” he said, with the judge also saying that Ahmad Zahid can request for breaks during today’s proceedings if he feels uncomfortable.
While Hamidi did not specify Ahmad Zahid’s condition in court, he mentioned “neck pain” when requesting for a short break during trial earlier on.
Today is the 10th day of Ahmad Zahid being in the witness stand, with yesterday being his first day under cross-examination.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid — who is also a former home minister and former deputy prime 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.