Umno working overtime to ‘clean up’ Rohaizat

(Malaysian Mirror) – Since the Bar Council’s announcement that Rohaizat Othman was disbarred as a lawyer for ‘misconduct’, it has not been easy for the Barisan Nasional, Umno in particular, to ‘sell’ their man in Permatang Pasir.

Not unexpectedly, Pakatan Rakyat has been cashing in on the matter, questioning the credibility of the BN candidate. The turn of events has been most unfortunate for the BN camp and it their opponent naturally chose to bang it hard on Rohaizat’s credibility.

permatang-pasir-by-election-rohaizat.pngPAS has asked, even in jest, for the BN to disqualify their candidate honourably but Umno has turned around to say that no way was PAS going to get a free ride in Permatang Pasir.

So the contest is on because legally, Rohaizat is eligible to vie for the seat as a candidate. But Umno has to work overtime to ‘clean up’ their man and this is what they have been doing.

A victim of circumstances

In Bukit Mertajam on Tuesday, Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan attempted to salvage a plus for his party’s candidate by explaining that Rohaizat was not involved in any land transaction handled by his legal firm partner on behalf of Koperasi Pekebun Getah Negeri Pulau Pinang Berhad.

Instead, he said, Rohaizat became a victim of circumstances after the partner left the law firm and he had to bear the burden of resolving problems arising from the transaction, according to a Bernama report.

He said, in 2002, the cooperative had hired Messrs Saif Ariff T.Jayaraj & Rohaizat to represent it in a property purchase in Penang.

He said the cooperative handed over the money for the purchase to the law firm but later the transaction had to be cancelled.

"At all material times, the transaction was handled by the partner who had been with the firm from 1999 to 2003," said Ahmad.

He added that the money paid by the cooperative was received exclusively by the partner, who was handling the client's accounts at all material times.

"Rohaizat's partner was the authorised signatory for the accounts and Rohaizat had no involvement or knowledge about the property transcation," he said.

Ahmad said at the time the cooperative lodged a complaint with the Bar Council's disciplinary board over the transaction, Rohaizad's partner had already left the firm and he (Rohaizat) was named as the respondent in the complaint, making him a victim of circumstances.

Rohaizat had refunded monies

He added that Rohaizat appeared before the board for the first time on Sept 11, 2007 and on that day, the board had only questioned a representative of the copperative.

Ahmad said the hearing was then postponed to Sept 14 to enable Rohaizat to cross examine the representative of the cooperative and explain his side of the story.

However, on that day, Rohaizat did not attend the hearing because he was sick and a medical chit on his illness was submitted to the board, he said.

Following that, Ahmad said Rohaizat never received any notices from the board until March 14, 2008, when he received a letter stating he had been disbarred.

Ahmad said in discharging his firm's responsibilities, Rohaizat had refunded monies due to the cooperative and following this, the cooperative had written a letter to the disciplinary board on March 28, 2008 to retract all complaints made against Rohaizat as all their claims had been settled.

This, he said, showed Rohaizat was a leader of quality and did not run away from problems, unlike his partner, and thus could be deemed a "hero".

ahmad zahid hamidi.jpgAs such, he said, allegations by certain quarters that Rohaizat was a person without integrity were not true and hoped this clarification would put to rest the accusations that had been hurled about the BN candidate.

Meanwhile, Umno veep Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stressed that PAS had no right to dispute the candidacy of Rohaizat, saying that BN had the prerogative to choose its candidate and other parties should not interfere.

'He's a good son'

"What is there to dispute about? To us, he (Rohaizat) is our best candidate for the by-election.

“During the nomination of candidates, he brought along his parents and wife. It shows he's a good son who's always supported and blessed by his family," he told reporters in Bukit Mertajam.

Ahmad Zahid said BN could also question or comment on PAS' choice of candidate, Mohd Salleh Man, who had never won in any general election despite several attempts, but BN did not wish to do such a thing.

Therefore, he said, PAS and its by-election director Mahfuz Omar should not make any mischievous or misleading statements on the BN candidate.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Penang Umno liaison chief, was responding to PAS' call for Rohaizat to withdraw from contesting in the by-election following the revocation of his civil lawyer's licence by the Malaysian Bar Council.

But BN had explained last Sunday that the revocation was not due to his fault but due to problems involving his partner in the legal firm.

Mahfuz told reporters today that although legally, Rohaizat was eligible to contest in the by-election, morally, he was not.

mahfuz-omar-2.jpgHe went on to say that he regretted BN's decision to place such a candidate, and that "Rohaizat has still a long way to go as he is young and should concentrate on his career".

To this, Ahmad Zahid said PAS should examine itself first before commenting on others.

"What's the worry? We meet on polling day and let the voters decide," he said, adding that he had asked the Umno and BN by-election machinery to explain clearly Rohaizat's position during their door-to-door campaign and ceramah (talks).

Umno has qualified young leaders

The Permatang Pasir state seat by-election is being held following the death of the incumbent assemblyman, Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman from PAS, on July 31.

Meanwhile in Putrajaya, Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Rohaizat's candidacy showed that the BN had back-up leaders from among the professionals.

"The opposition parties have been saying Umno and BN have no second echelon leaders but we have proven that we have qualified young leaders," he told reporters after handing over prizes for the PNB investment quiz 2009.

In another development, Puteri Umno chief Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said 1,500 Puteri Umno members had been mobilised to help the BN's campaign in Permatang Pasir.

"The result of the Manik Urai by-election injected new optimism among the members and this will spur us to work harder in Permatang Pasir," she said.