KUCHING, Sept 4: The acquittal of former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng by the Penang High Court yesterday from a corruption case was done “in accordance with the law”, but it left a bad taste with many people due to their high expectation of the Pakatan Harapan-led federal government to ensure that justice is served.
Former Padungan assemblyman Dominique Ng, who is a lawyer by profession, said since Lim’s case had gone to trial, the judge presiding the case had the jurisdiction and authority to order for a full acquittal if the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had proposed a ‘nolle prosequi’, or a withdrawal of the charge, even if not amounting to a full acquittal.
He told DayakDaily that the AGC had the full right or discretion to decide whether to continue to prosecute or withdraw any case after it had been set in motion.
“So both the High Court and the AGC have the power to do what they did. This is not a situation of an abuse of power. There is no abuse of authority. All these were done in accordance with the law,” he said.
Ng said the court’s decision caught the public’s attention when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) expressed “shock” over the AGC’s decision, because it was the MACC that did the investigation and thus had better appraisal of the evidence.
In this situation, the AGC, though having the right or power, should have consulted the MACC first. Due to the lack of consultation with the MACC, it created doubts and suspicions in the minds of many people.
“We must all be reminded that PH came in as a reforming government and that it was supposed to get rid of all corruption and injustices due to the long reign of the Barisan Nasional government.
“We, therefore, would have a higher expectation that the PH government will take actions that are seen as upholding the rule of law and the determination to wipe out corrupt practices,” he said.
He said there is an unwritten rule that the higher the position of the person in government, the greater will be the scrutiny of the actions of the said person.
“Had Lim been an ordinary person, he would be praised for striking a rather good deal of buying a property below its market value. But because he was the then Penang chief minister and the co-accused a senior executive of a company that got a contract from the Penang government, the whole case is thrown into a totally different light.
“I feel it is not wrong for the people to be disappointed with the AGC’s decision to withdraw the case, especially when former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo, who had a similar case and was charged and convicted, had to serve a jail term, while Lim was acquitted. That left a bad taste among many,” said Ng.
Shortly after the Penang High Court acquitted Lim yesterday, the MACC issued a statement stating that it was “shocked” by the court’s decision and added that the “MACC would like to stress that the decision was made by the AGC and not the MACC”.
Meanwhile, the head of Appellate and Trial Division at the AGC, deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria, was today quoted as explaining that the AG, Tommy Thomas, had no hand in the decision to drop Lim’s graft case. He clarified that Lim’s case was dropped in light of new evidence that the case would not succeed. — DayakDaily