KUCHING, Dec 4 — Sarawak-based human rights activist Peter John Jaban today questioned if Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has the time to fully discharge his ministerial duties while he is on trial facing 47 court charges.
He said Ahmad Zahid, who was sworn in yesterday, will have to concentrate on establishing his innocence and free himself of the charges.
"He should weigh carefully whether he has the time and the energy to prepare for his court case and still carry out his duties as the deputy prime minister,” Jaban said when responding to the appointment of Ahmad Zahid by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He felt that the Umno president should be appointed to the post after he has cleared his name, which is a standard practice in other democratic countries, of the charges.
Jaban also urged the prime minister to commit himself to the reform agenda that he has been championing for the last 25 years.
He said Anwar must give an immediate assurance of a free and independent judiciary as part of his package of reforms to allow for proper accountability and the administration of justice, going forward.
Jaban said the prime minister must also allay the fears of many Malaysians that he would free anyone, including members of his Cabinet, of court charges.
"The people now want to see that the law takes its course without any interference by the executive,” he said, stressing that political positions should no longer be used as a shield against anyone facing corruption and criminal charges.
Ahmad Zahid is facing 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to over RM31 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges over RM21.25 million in alleged bribes.
Yayasan Akalbudi was founded with the purported objectives of receiving and administering funds for the eradication of poverty, and enhancing the welfare of the poor.
The trial dates are January 16 to 19, January 30 to 31, February 7 to 9, March 27 to 30, April 10 to 13, and May 15 to 18, next year.