Let’s put it this way, it simply is not done. Having been put firmly in his place by the Court of Appeal last week after he tried to further delay their ruling on his client’s case (the client being Najib) Malaysia’s most controversial lawyer took to the public soap box yesterday to try all over again.
In short, the extraordinary showman (who has succeeded in pausing corruption charges against himself as he defends his ‘special’ client) started attempting to bulldoze a climbdown by the Appeal Court judges by using the court of public opinion as his weapon.
“He ought to be disbarred immediately”, “Clear contempt”, sniffed foreign and domestic legal observers alike, as undeterred by the conventional rules of the game the rogue lawyer called a press conference to announce he now has a new reason for demanding the court delay their ruling on December 8th.
The first had been so that Najib could holiday longer in Singapore (after having himself delayed the permitted trip so that he could front an election campaign in Malacca).
This having been rejected, Shafee now told assembled journalists that some seventeen months after the original appeal was lodged he had suddenly discovered new evidence he claimed was relevant. Evidence that he darkly suggested had been withheld by various authorities to supposedly undermine his client’s case. He then made tendentious claims about the return of monies from 1MDB that were made to the Singapore authorities which everyone has known about for ages.
Naturally, Najib was soon posting the outrageous performance on his personal Facebook account, as the gambit to politicise the legal proceedings took shape.
Shafee, like his boss, has persistently got away with acting outside the rules. Yet even for such a pair this was clearly a low point that will have dragged Malaysia’s reputation concerning the rule of law further through the mud, if only for his having got away with not being censured.
Why was this separate repayment story relevant to Najib’s own guilt in the matter, reporters asked? Because, Shafee only too candidly replied, “If we had known I could have made something of it!”.
Indeed, there is little doubt the gold Bentley driving lawyer would have made something of it. He has shown himself capable of stringing any matter out for weeks and months when allowed to get away with it, as he has with every other possible distraction or excuse that he could possibly find to test the patience of the courts. He carried on:
“We are offering you reasons why we made this application because as you can appreciate people like Sarawak Report think that because I ask for the case to be relegated to just a few days later so that my client can return from Singapore the Sarawak Report says I was manoeuvring a delay of the judgement … so I don’t want you guys to think I am manoeuvring a delay of the judgement, I am not”.
Sarawak Report accepts his words as an admission of his tactics that ought not go unnoticed.
Meanwhile, another pushback from Najib’s cohort of lawyers lead by Shafee started to look like a considerable own goal on the part of the swaggering duo, since this was also the day the former Attorney General, Tommy Thomas, issued his rebuttal to Najib’s libel suit against him.
Najib believes his already battered reputation was impugned by references in Thomas’s memoire Justice in the Wilderness to actions the ex-AG took regarding the highly controversial investigation into the murder back in 2006 of Najib’s interpreter by his bodyguards.
Altantuya Shaariibuu was blown up with weapons grade explosive after threatening to expose thefts by Najib from the Scorpene submarine contract whilst he was Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
According to the ‘offending passage’ cited by Najib, Thomas had decided whilst in office that the prosecution would not contest an application made by one of the two bodyguards, Azilah Hadri, to plead a new confession in court as part of an appeal against his death sentence.
Thomas wrote that his reasons for judging the application would not be denied was compelling corroboration of Azilah’s claim to be submitting new evidence in the case – much in the same way Shafee claims to have new evidence to support Najib.
The reason, as Thomas dramatically reveals in the passage, was that he had received an affidavit separately provided by Azilah’s co-defendant, Sirul Umah Azar in Australia, that matched Azilah’s claim that he had been ordered by Najib to kill Altantuya on the grounds she was a spy.
The passage adds it also emerged that an earlier statement by Sirul to the Australian authorities also referred to Altantuya as a foreign spy, before Azilah filed his ‘confession’. The circumstances precluded any collaboration between the two men, so Thomas wrote that he had decided to leave the matter up to the courts to decide on the merits of their evidence without attempting to strike it out. Since the change of government the case has been suspended the book relates.
The writ filed by Shafee and Najib in summary claims that these statements in the book are tantamount to suggesting “that the Plaintiff was unfit to hold political or any other office with such blood on his hands” also that Najib “had allegedly done this heinous deed in his position as Deputy Prime Minister and…. had misled the Rakyat over the episode and had covered his criminal tracks”.
In yesterday’s rebuttal the former AG first took full responsibility for the book seeking to absolve the publisher from attempts to drag them into the affair. He then made clear he denies the meaning that Najib has drawn, saying the complained of statements “do not criminally link the Plaintiff to the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu“ and he stoutly defended his right to lay out the facts in the way he did.
This in effect means that Najib is not going to get a retraction from the senior lawyer and moreover Thomas’s defence makes reference to some extremely interesting documents that formed the basis for his remarks that would clearly be revealed at trial – in particular what Sirul has said over in Australia, which journalists have sought to learn for some considerable while.
There have long been concerns and complaints about the perceived cover-ups and suppressions of evidence during the murder trial itself, indeed Altantuya’s father has his own civil complaint on this very matter that is grinding its way through court.
It would now appear that by taking up the legal cudgels in this affair it will be Najib through his own case who will at last help lift the lid on the entire affair and bring all the evidence to light.
Perhaps this was his intention and perhaps he believes that a full examination of all the available evidence and all the available witnesses, which the original trial failed so unaccountably to achieve, will at last clear all suspicion relating to his role. If so, Najib will welcome Thomas’s rising to the challenge and the prospect of a full public trial.
On the other hand, if Najib would rather not dig up this sorry tale once more, he might regret the antics of his showman lawyer because there are few exits left now that Thomas has signalled that he is fighting back.