Support, shock and questions over LGE's acquittal (Updated)

04 Sep 2018 / 10:55 H.

GEORGE TOWN: The acquittal of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon over corruption charges today drew shock from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and even prompted an NGO to question the independence of the judiciary.
"MACC would like to stress that the decision to withdraw the case was decided by the Attorney-General's (AG) Chambers and not from MACC," it said in a brief statement today.
Justice Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail acquitted and discharged Lim, 58, and Phang, 46, following the application of counsel Ramkarpal Singh, who represented Lim; and Datuk V. Sithambaram and Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, who represented Phang.
Ramkarpal however took the MACC to task for expressing shock over the case.
"I am shocked that MACC is shocked," he said.
Ramkarpal said that it was ridiculous for the MACC to claim ignorance when the director of its own legal and prosecution division, Mohd Masri Daud, had informed the court that he was withdrawing the two charges.
Lim was the Penang chief minister when he was charged in 2016 with two counts of using his position to approve an application by a company, which Phang had an interest in, to convert a farm-status land into residential plot.
On the second charge, Lim was accused of using his position in public office to purchase a bungalow in Pinhorn Road from Phang for RM2.8 million, a sale which was lower than the market pricing of RM4.27 million, the prosecution had alleged.
When met outside courtroom, the DAP secretary-general expressed gratitude and relief over the decision. He told reporters that he appreciated those who had been supportive of him on the struggle that he had gone through.
"Finally I have been freed from the slanderous charges against me," he stated.
The acquittal drew mixed responses from politicians and lawyers. It was not met positively by Opposition politicians.
State Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong said the law should take its course. "Everything must follow the the due process," said Oh, adding that the public would be the best people to judge.
Lawyer and former PKR assemblyman S. Raveentharan said the AG has full discretion to decide on court cases under article 1453 of the Federal Constitution, unless the matter is related to syariah or native courts or a court martial case.
The government could have been more transparent by appointing Lim as acting finance minister before his case was thrown out, he said.
"How small a power this may be, it still tends to interfere with the judicial process at times," Raveentharan said. "It shows that the executive can be domineering inadvertently to the practice of the law."
Lawyer Baljit Singh said no reason was given for the acquittal. "I am shocked that MACC is shocked by this," he said.
Penaga assemblyman Yusni Mat Piah of PKR said he was surprised, but it was done in accordance with the law.

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