Nazri: Lingam broke no law

By Yong Min Wei, The Edge

Prominent lawyer Datuk VK Lingam has not broken any law following investigation by the enforcement agencies in relation to the controversial video which purportedly suggest the brokering of judges’ appointment, the Dewan Rakyat was told.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz said although it could be Lingam in person in the video clip, the lawyer could not be considered to have contravened the law.

“His actions could have undermined the judiciary’s integrity but things must be looked at from a legal perspective. Legal matters must be separated from moral issues,” he said during the winding up of the debate on Budget 2010 at the policy stage yesterday which drew jeers from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs.

Nazri (Padang Rengas–BN) said the appointment of judges in accordance to Article 122B of the Constitution allowed the prime minister to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the appointment of judges following consultation with the Chief Justice of Malaysia.

He also said it was a practice for specific departments and agencies such as the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Companies Commission of Malaysia and the Department of Insolvency to be consulted on the judges’ appointment to ensure the credibility of such candidates.

“Here, it should be emphasised that nothing prevents the prime minister to obtain the views of any other person,” Nazri pointed out.

He added it was “not an offence” for someone to advise or give views to the prime minister on the appointment of judges unless it amounted to a conspiracy to subvert the judiciary or is done with the intention of getting favours or involving corruption.

“I like to stress here that there is no truth to claims that there was cover-up by the authorities in the case that involved the video clip of lawyer VK Lingam,” he told the House.

The issue that no action was taken on the “VK Lingam video clip” was raised by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (Permatang Pauh–PKR), Lim Guan Eng (Bagan–DAP) and Karpal Singh (Bukit Gelugor–DAP) during debate on the Budget 2010 speech earlier.

According to Nazri, MACC had conducted further investigation on the main individuals associated in the recording of the video clip and found that no criminal offence was committed in connection with the issue of abuse of power in the appointment of judges.

Asked by Wee Choo Keong (Wangsa Maju–PKR) on the testimony by Lingam’s brother at the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) that a bag filled with cash was delivered to the house of a former judge, Nazri replied that the issue had nothing to do with the brokering of judges appointment but conceded that such an act, if true, was wrong.

On the holiday in New Zealand by then Chief Justice Tun Eusoff Chin and Lingam that was raised during the proceeding of the RCI, Nazri said investigation showed that payments of the airfare and accommodation for Eusoff was made by the chief justice himself either by cheque, cash or credit card.

The minister also clarified that holidaying together by itself was not an offence, stressing that investigation by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) then found that no act that violated the law had been committed.

“As such, no further action has been taken,” Nazri said to the ire of opposition lawmakers.

He also said that following the release of the report by the RCI last year, further investigation by enforcement authorities was conducted to complete the investigation by the Attorney-General’s Department that compelled a witness to be traced, but such a witness had not been traced to date.

Moreover, he said MACC had conducted an investigation pursuant to the Official Secrets Act 1972 following the proceedings of the inquiry but found that no person could be known for sure on the handling of classified documents that deliberated the appointment of judges.

“In conclusion, I must emphasise that although the investigation has been done by the enforcement body, the fact is to press charges we need sufficient evidence. Without sufficient evidence no charges could be laid,” Nazri said.