An all too powerful council…

Aziz Hassan

THERE’S something that doesn’t quite compute but what we do have so far are many disparaging comments and allegations, searches and seizures, statements recorded and most recently, the names and faces of some suspicious characters revealed to the public.

Apart from having lots of cash and other valuables seized from a posh city apartment owned by a friend, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib has had his statements recorded by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) thrice, including the one in December 2015, and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor once.

In most cases such persons would have been remanded for further questioning, or charged immediately or placed under bail of some sort but none of this for Najib and Rosmah.

This is what we know from recent investigations involving the two but a few years ago, in mid-2015, the government announced just before his official retirement that Gani had resigned due to health reasons.

The talk then was that Gani was preparing to write a charge sheet against Najib, presumably due to issues with 1Malaysia Development Board.

If indeed that was the case, Gani or the Attorney-General’s Chambers he headed would have found enough evidence against Najib.

In place of Gani came Tan Sri Apandi Ali, who has been relieved of his position, and who many believe blocked the case against Najib. Fine. But if incriminating evidence was already found then against Najib, why hasn’t he been charged, especially now that we have a new AG who is familiar with 1MDB and made known about two years ago what he thought of the main characters involved in one way or the other, including journalists.

An all-powerful council…. but who made them so?

When it was announced three days after the general elections that the Pakatan Harapan government had formed what was initially called the Council of Elders that later got changed to the Council of Eminent Persons, not many actually stopped to think the significance of its existence. Everyone appeared to happily go along with it, especially when euphoria from the May 9 electoral success was very much in the air. It was then said that the council would get down to the business of ensuring how best Pakatan would be able to honour its 100-day promises and also to look into issues affecting 1MDB.

The CEP wasted no time in getting down to work and started to call one after the other. To be fair, one could not imagine any of those summoned to appear before it to disregard that call. A certain Datuk Siti Nurhaliza too appeared before this council chaired by former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, now said to be a trusted adviser to Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad after a major fallout and parting of ways about 18 or 19 years ago. It was when so many of the country’s who’s who had appeared before the council that many realised the CEP’s power had spread far and wide to the point that there is no telling where it ends.

A recent decision to summon the country’s top two judges – Tun Md. Raus Sharif and Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin – wasn’t well received by some lawyers especially because this infringed on the doctrine of separation powers.

Raus and Zulkefli have since said they would leave office by July 31 but the fact that they were called to face the council was most objectionable.

Many do not agree with the appointment of the two as additional judges but since the matter is before the courts, those who didn’t agree with the council’s move argued that due process should have been observed and allowed to take its course, especially since Mahathir has been alluding often since May 9 to the rule of law. That the Bar Council has again chosen to say nothing incidentally isn’t surprising any more.

Back to the powers of the council.

When asked about this recently while in Japan Mahathir simply remarked that the council has the right to call anybody. The point is where does all the power come from? We know that it’s not from Parliament or any other legally constituted body of non-partisan neutrals.

How many Malaysians know what the council’s terms of reference are, who are the members accountable to and if it has any do’s and don’ts? It looks Iike most don’t and most have not questioned either. Don’t be surprised if the council will still be around after the 100 days because anything the New Malaysia administration does is tolerated regardless if it’s a two wrongs make a right situation.

Source: The Mole

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