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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Suaram: Najib "inextricably linked" with Scorpenes-Altantuya

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:45 AM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Top Malaysian NGO Suaram has charged that Prime Minister Najib Razak and his government are "inextricably linked" with the Scorpenes submarines corruption scandal and the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case.
Suaram based its accusation on Najib's "unceremonious deportation" of renowned French human rights lawyer, William Bourdon, who was acting on their behalf in a high-profile case filed against submarines vendor DCN at the Parisian courts.
"It is the biggest mistake yet by the Malaysian government for it is an affront to diplomacy, to international law and common decency. It was a totally arbitrary act by the Home Ministry and a gross abuse of executive power of the Najib administration," Suaram director, Cynthia Gabriel (pic, centre), wrote in a statement.
"This clumsy attempt to silence the truth about the Scorpene scandal and the murder of Altantuya only serves to fortify the belief that the Prime Minister and his government is inextricably linked with the scandal."

Biggest mistake
Indeed, the detention and deportation of French lawyer William Bourdon on July 22nd is another in the string of bizarre acts by Najib and his advisers. Also, this is not the first time the Immigration Department has played its part in the Altantuya saga.
Back in 2007, it was revealed that travelling details for Altantuya and her cousin were erased from the Immigration Department’s computers. There were no records of the two ever entering Malaysia. Hishammuddin was unable to provide an answer when queried on this fact. Instead, this point was shoved under the rug, out of the public eye and never investigated.
And now in 2011, the lawyer engaged by Suaram to look into the Scorpenes corruption case is removed from a plane, detained and deported for reasons unknown. Why? Coincidentally, the Scorpenes case is also inextricably intertwined with the murder of the Mongolian translator, so already, this act by the Immigration Department smells of a cover-up. Indeed, it is a cover-up at the highest level, and indicates the depth of the corruption that colors the 2002 purchase of the Scorpene submarines.
In 2002, when Najib was still the defense minister, he had controversially sanctioned the purchase of the submarines amid accusations of gross over-pricing and kickbacks. In 2006, Altantuya who acted as translator for Najib's proxy in the Scorpenes deal, Razak Baginda, was murdered in Selangor by two of Najib's former bodyguards. Najib has denied involvement in the murder or having a hand in any financial impropriety in the submarines deal.
But the mountain of evidence could not be ignored, leading Suaram to complain in France where it is illegal for DCN to offer any bribes just to win the procurement order. If found guilty, DCN would have to compensate Malaysian taxpayers for the overpricing due to the commissions it paid out, as well as reveal the names of those Malaysian officials who accepted the bribes. Najib is belived to be one of them and he has been accused of blocking all efforts by citizen groups in Malaysia to get the local authorities to begin a long-overdue investigation.
"The ongoing probe has uncovered 2 more paid out commissions amounting to Euro 30 and 2.5 million respectively besides the initial Euro 104 million. The beneficiaries will be exposed once the investigation moves into the open court," said Cynthia.
"Suaram lawyers have further moved to apply for the appointment of an independent instruction judge in the French judicial system, as a way to circumvent any possibility of any party, from both the French and Malaysian side involved in the kickbacks and corruption, from influencing the public prosecutors involved in the initial stage of the inquiry, to drop or unnecessarily delay the case."
The Home minister
Bourdon had indeed confirmed to Penangites on July 21st that the French authorities had approved Suaram's request for an instruction judge - a major step forward for their case to uncover the bribes allegedly paid by DCN to top Malaysian officials. Open court hearings are expected to begin in September.
In his presentation, Bourdon did not give details of the latest evidence uncovered by the French police. He was expected to share more details in the second briefing, which was due to be held in Kuala Lumpur on July 22 and Petaling Jaya on the July 23rd. However, he had promised that Malaysians would get the "truth and justice" they sought. And as if sensing the danger ahead, he even told Malaysians to have courage.
"Despite many obstacles and although such proceedings are complex and difficult, the truth shall emerge in France and we will expose the corruption related to the submarine deal. We will reveal and disclose details on all the beneficiaries. I am confident in Malaysians to overcome difficulties and I wish you courage," William said.
Prophetic words indeed, for upon reaching Kuala Lumpur from Penang, Bourdon was detained and deported.
However, when pressed to explain the reason for Bourdon's deportation, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein whose ministry is the parent agency for the Immigration Department, stated that Bourdon had violated conditions for his tourist visa.
“He broke the conditions of his visa,” said Hishammuddin. “Because this is a high-profile case, people are selectively choosing to say it is political. People get deported every day.”
Asked if it was because of what Bourdon had said at the fundraiser of human rights group Suaram in Penang and what he was due to say at the later engagements, Hisham said: “I don’t know what it is but certain he cannot give a speech.”
The Defense minister
Bourdon’s own account that he was questioned about the contents of the speech gives us an idea for why he was deported. Whether the authorities admit it or not, they feared what he would say during his briefings.
Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed that deported French lawyer William Bourdon was “utilised” and “victimised”.
“Ask him to ask himself whether he got the right to defend the case here. If he would like to defend his case, do it in France, not here.  He is being utilised and victimised by DAP, by Dr Kua and Suaram,” Ahmad Zahid added, referring to Dr Kua Kia Soong, who is Suaram’s director.
Why would Bourdon be “utilised” and “victimised” by DAP and Suaram when firstly, Bourdon is employed by Suaram with Cynthia and Dr Kua as the directors and secondly, how did DAP get into the picture? Was it because DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang was also at the Penang briefing as a guest speaker? Why would the defence minister politicize an investigation launched and funded by an NGO by dragging in DAP into the picture?
"The statement by the Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi that Suaram and the DAP have “exploited and vicitimised” William Bourdon merely exposes the defence minister's ignorance of the reputation of William Bourdon in the international stage and his ignorance of the French judicial system. William Bourdon did not come to "defend the case in Malaysia"; he only came to brief his clients, ie. Suaram and the Malaysian public about the ongoing case in France," said Cynthia.
Immigration again
As for the Director General for Immigration, his reply also did little to enlighten anyone. The authority to deport, restrict and allow entry into Malaysia rests solely with the DG. “Investigations by the Immigration Department revealed thatlater engagement Bourdon had violated the terms of his social visit pass as stipulated by the Immigration Act,” Immigration director-general Alias Ahmad had said.
The stipulation that the Director-General is referring to is contained in the Article 9(1) of the Immigration Act 1959/63. Article 9 (1) states: Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in any subsidiary legislation made under this Act, the Director General may— (a) where he deems it expedient to do so in the interests of public security or by reason of any economic, industrial, social, educational or other conditions in Malaysia, by order, prohibit, either for a stated period or permanently, the entry or re-entry into Malaysia of any person or class of persons: Provided that the order made under this paragraph shall not apply to any citizen or to the holder of any valid Pass or Permit; (b) in his absolute discretion cancel any Pass at any time by writing under his hand; or (c) cancel any Permit at any time by writing under his hand, if he is satisfied that the presence in, or entry into, Malaysia of the holder of any Permit is, or would be, prejudicial to public order, public security, public health or morality in Malaysia or any part thereof.
Article 9(1) gives the Director-General absolute power to deport anyone he deems has violated their permit or pass. But what would constitute a violation of one’s pass or permit to enter Malaysia? The Immigration Department website lists the following activities that are allowed, with short term social visit pass given to foreign visitors upon arrival for the purpose of:
1. Social visit
2. Visiting Relatives
3. Tourism
4. Journalist / Reporter
5. Meeting / Conference
6. Business Discussion
7. Factory Inspection
8. Auditing Company's Account
9. Signing Agreement
10. Doing survey on investment opportunities/setting up factory
11. Attending Seminars
12. On goodwill mission for students or sitting for examinations in University
13. Taking part in sports competitions
14. Other activities than above, approved by the Director General of Immigration.
Looking at the list of activities, one can concur that giving a speech is perfectly allowed. After all, by deporting Bourdon because he gave a speech, does this mean that visitors who come for a social visit, as a journalist/reporter, attend a meeting/conference, have business discussions, come to sign an agreement or attend seminars, are also “not allowed” to address a crowd or group of people because it would violate the conditions for their permits?
No explanation except running scared
The Malaysian Defence minister’s statement taken along with those from the Home minister and the Immigration director-general paint a clear picture that the reason for Bourdon's deportation rests in the twilight zone. It cannot be rationally and logically explained by the government, which only strengthens the reasoning that it was purely a knee-jerk reaction to what Bourdon was willing to disclose to his Malaysian audience - the truth behind the Scorpene scandal and the inter-connection with the Altantuya killing.
This was truly a desperate act to curtail the truth from those who desire to hear of it. Small wonder if Malaysia would now be ranked among the governments that not only repress and oppress their own citizens but also foreign nationals. Bourbon was treated like an illegal upon reaching Kuala Lumpur from Penang. It is an irony that his first entry into Malaysia was hassle free, yet it seems his speech at the Penang fund-raiser had ruffled feathers of all those involved with the submarine purchase. A speech that was enough to have the immigration department brave international heat, arrest and deport him.
"Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein's statement that the deportation of William Bourdon is not political is unconvincing as Immigration officials had repeatedly asked William about his speech in Penang the night before," said Cynthia.
"Suaram has been very transparent about its objectives in pursuing this case in the French courts. The French tax payers have an equal interest in getting to the bottom of the scandal involving commissions given to officials in both countries which will then provide the motive for the murder of Altantuya. We are gratified that the Defence Minister has already said that he is ready to testify in the French courts when the time comes.
"The government must explain its shameful action in detaining and deporting William Bourdon to the Malaysian public, and give assurances that there will be full cooperation when the case goes to the open court in France."


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