KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — A retired senior officer at the Finance Ministry today explained that nerves was what led to her abrupt remark that she had not drafted her own witness statement, as well as her previous behaviour in court.
The soft-spoken Datuk Siti Zauyah Mohd Desa, who turns 63 later this year, clarified this at the High Court today.
The Finance Ministry's former deputy secretary-general (policy) was testifying as the 26th prosecution witness in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's trial over the misappropriation of RM2.28 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.
Earlier this month, Najib's lawyer Wan Aizuddin Wan Mohammed was cross-examining Siti Zauyah by asking her questions about documents from between 2009 and 2013, Siti Zauyah often took long pauses before answering questions as she flipped through documents that were placed before her.
Siti Zauyah had also repeatedly answered Wan Aizuddin that she did not know or could not recall the events that had happened many years ago.
Today, Najib's lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee highlighted Siti Zauyah's reply to him during cross-examination last month, where she said that her written witness statement was drafted by her assistants at the Finance Ministry without her input.
But Siti Zauyah today said she had gone through the witness statement and that she had drafted it together with them, saying that those officers had helped her but that she "had to go through every line".
Shafee then suggested she has now refined what she previously said, and further asked: "I put it to you that your memory is either terrible or you are pretending to have a bad memory."
Siti Zauyah replied, "Yang Arif, I went through all the documents, although some of it were drafted by my officers, I also have to go through everything and also have some inputs."
Shafee: Alright, my last question, why was it when you were pressed in cross-examination by me and you said 'I don't know, I don't know' repeatedly, and you said these statements were crafted or drafted by your two assistants, why did you say that?
Siti Zauyah: It's my first experience in trial. Scary.
Shafee: Datuk if you are scared, you don't tell lies, you can just talk.
Siti Zauyah: No.
Shafee: You mean whenever you are scared you tell lies?
Siti Zauyah: No, it's just that everything came in all of a sudden, your mind cannot think clear then.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram later asked Siti Zauyah why she had not responded to some of the questions asked by Najib's lawyers during cross-examination.
Siti Zauyah explained that she was trying to ensure that she only provided the correct information by looking back at the related documents first.
"The thing is, this happened a very long time ago, and I was just trying to recall back what happened and trying to relate back to the documents. That's why I feel that I don't want to give the wrong evidence. It must be correct, whatever happened at that time," she said.
When Sri Ram remarked that Siti Zauyah had already told the court this was the first time she had testified as a court witness, she replied: "That's true, it's scary."
Sri Ram then asked about Siti Zauyah's state of mind when Najib's lawyers were asking her questions.
Siti Zauyah replied, "I was scared, really, really scared. It's difficult for me to think straight you know. It's just my first time."
While asking Siti Zauyah questions, Sri Ram also remarked that she could take her time in answering questions as the High Court judge was there to make sure that the lawyers do not "bully" her.
Najib was seen dressed in a dark pinstriped suit with a dark blue tie with geometric patterns in light blue, while his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and his daughter Nooryana Najwa were in the courtroom to attend his trial.
Najib's 1MDB trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.