Innocent until proven guilty? Or the other way around?

We can’t apply one standard for our own people and another for the other side. We must have just one standard that applies to all, friends and foes alike. And if we are prepared to overlook allegations and suspicions about our own people, then we must do the same for the other side, Najib included.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Awhile back, I said, Parti Keadilan Rakyat needs to evaluate the manner in which it chooses its candidates in the elections. This was soon after two of its members from Perak declared that they are now ‘independents’ but will vote with Barisan Nasional. You just can’t be ‘independent’ and at the same time pledge undivided loyalty to a certain political party.

An independent, in the true sense of the word, will not vote along party lines but based on issues. You first look at the issue and then vote accordingly, depending on what is the best for the people who voted for you and put you into office. Unfortunately, since the party ‘allowed’ you to contest that seat which you won, even though it were the voters who gave you the job, you have to demonstrate loyalty to your party and not to the voters. You therefore vote along party lines even if that may not be quite in the interest of the voters.

In reality, that is how it works. The voters come second. The party comes first.

That, basically, is what is wrong with the system. And I am proposing that, come the next general election, the many civil society movements — including the Blogging community, etc. — offer candidates to the various parties contesting the elections. This will solve two problems. First would be we would be addressing the problem faced by parties such as Parti Keadilan Rakyat in finding and fielding quality candidates. Second would be to ensure that at least a percentage of the candidates are independents who will not automatically and blindly vote along party lines even when what is being proposed sucks.

And that brings us to the issue of the only ‘independent’ candidate from Pakatan Rakyat, Ibrahim Ali.

Ibrahim Ali is a case in point. Yes, he was or is an independent candidate. But at the same time he is a Malay nationalist who believes in the New Economic Policy and Ketuanan Melayu and Bahasa Malaysia as being the supreme language of this land and whatnot. This spelled doom from the word ‘go’ and Pakatan Rakyat should have smelled trouble from Day One.

The seat that Ibrahim Ali contested is a PAS seat. Ibrahim Ali has or had a very strong relationship with PAS, in particular with Tok Guru Nik Aziz. In short, Ibrahim Ali conned the PAS people and created the impression that he had reformed and had now seen the light and wants to come back to the true path and all the crap.

Ibrahim Ali just used PAS to get a seat. In the by-election before that, Ibrahim Ali contested the state seat in that same parliamentary constituency in a three-corner fight and not only lost but lost his deposit as well. That was how badly he lost. So, this time around, he wanted to ensure that there would not, again, be a three-corner fight and that he would not, again, lose his deposit. He therefore offered himself to PAS and PAS was very happy to have him.

But we must remember, Ibrahim Ali was from the group that left Umno to set up Semangat 46 together with Rais Yatim and many others. And this was the group that swore in the name of God they would never return to Umno even if they died and were reborn and that when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dies they are going to urinate on his grave.

Today, all these people are back in Umno and holding positions in the party. Ibrahim Ali wants to first see what the ‘offer’ from Umno is before he considers whether to return to Umno or not. The offer must of course include a Cabinet post. Is Ibrahim Ali a turncoat? If from his point of view, no! And this is because he is not a PAS member or PAS candidate but merely an independent candidate who contested a PAS seat.

I would not have allowed Ibrahim Ali to contest that seat if it was left up to me to decide. And the reason is simple. Ibrahim Ali has a very unstable and inconsistent track record. I would therefore place him way at the top of my list of ‘suspects’. In short, I would pronounce him guilty until proven innocent.

I know this goes against the very grain of justice. One should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Yes, that would be so if that were in a court of law involving a criminal case. But when it involves public office, and involves public funds putting you and keeping you in office, then we have to use the basis of guilty until proven innocent.

Ibrahim Ali has too many flip-flops to his name. We must assume that he is still a flip-flop and has not changed his spots. That may not be fair to Ibrahim Ali, I agree. But what is more important is what is fair to the 50,000 or 100,000 constituents he should be serving. One man has to be sacrificed for the good of 50,000 or 100,000 people who will suffer if he flip-flops, yet again, like he appears to be doing now.

Pakatan Rakyat, in particular Parti Keadilan Rakyat, seems to have a lot of problems with the people it has selected as candidates in the election. Perak fell because two of its representatives were caught with their pants down and had no choice but to go join Umno or else go to jail instead. The RM5 million they received helped as well.

Penang is a similar situation. It’s former Deputy Chief Minister, Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin, was also caught with his pants down and was removed from office. Will he now also go join Umno and collect RM5 million on the way to avoid going to jail? Will we therefore be faced with yet another by-election in Penang soon?

No, we can’t go on like this. How many more by-elections are we going to face just because someone from Parti Keadilan Rakyat has been caught with his or her pants down? There are many others in Pakatan Rakyat, in particular from Parti Keadilan Rakyat, who are prominent on my list of suspects. Anwar Ibrahim and many within the top party leadership also know who they are. They all have to go even if they merajuk (sulk) and resign from the party. There are no two ways about it.

Eli Wong is another case in point, although a most unfortunate case at that. Personally, I like Eli and consider her my friend. In fact, the day the crisis exploded I phoned her and told her not to resign but to stay and fight. But that is my personal view, of course. In the interest of the party and Pakatan Rakyat she has no choice but to go. And allowing her to continue as an EXCO Member in the Selangor State Government is just not on.

We crucified Abdullah Ahmad Badawi because of the US and UN reports alleging that he was involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal. He was alleged to have misused his position to assist his sister-in-law in getting an oil quota from Iraq. It was a mere allegation that surfaced in the US and UN reports. Abdullah was never arrested, charged, put on trial, or found guilty. But the allegation was good enough for us to crucify Abdullah Badawi. Even Tun Dr Mahathir demanded his resignation based on this yet unproven allegation.

That is the fate of those in public office. Normally, you are innocent until proven guilty. But for those in public office, you are guilty until proven innocent. And if we can’t prove your innocence then we have to assume you are guilty.

And is this not the same standards we apply for Najib? Malaysians are demanding that Najib be investigated and cleared of the allegation that he may be involved in Altantuya’s murder. It is not that there is evidence he is. It is that there is no evidence he is not. Those are the standards we apply for Najib, as we did for Abdullah in the Oil-for-Food scandal when we demanded his resignation.

It is most unfortunate that Eli has been dragged through the mud in this manner. But now that she has, whether she is an innocent victim of a conspiracy or not, we have to eliminate any doubts by retiring her. That is the only option open. Once we demonstrate to Umno and the people how we handle cases of this manner, we shall then command the moral high ground and can demand that they prove Najib innocent of murder or else we must assume he is guilty and should therefore leave office.

We can’t apply one standard for our own people and another for the other side. We must have just one standard that applies to all, friends and foes alike. And if we are prepared to overlook allegations and suspicions about our own people, then we must do the same for the other side, Najib included.

Najib has not been proven guilty. It is just that he has not been proven innocent. And since one is innocent until proven guilty then we must assume he is innocent and immediately drop all talk about Najib and Altantuya. Is this what we want to do? Personally, no! A person in public office needs to pass higher standards than innocent until proven guilty. And this includes Eli and Fairus and all those others who appear to have blemishes to their name.

That is the price that comes with public office. And if you can’t afford to pay that price then don’t hold public office. And I personally and openly apologise to Eli and trust that she knows my heart is with her but I shall not allow my fondness for her to cloud my judgment.