Umno lawyer defends comments over Sodomy II

By Debra Chong, Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — As Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s ongoing sodomy trial winds to a close, Malaysia’s best-paid lawyer has denied conspiring with staff in the Prime Minister’s Office to subvert the media and end the political career of the man once deemed the biggest threat to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).

Prominent lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, frequently linked to the BN’s powerful lynchpin Umno, has come under fire online after Anwar’s unsworn statement of defence from the dock, purportedly for interfering with the news coverage of the controversial court case by issuing certain instructions to mainstream media editors and reporters.

The alleged conspiracy was given more flavour by a blogger calling himself Ahmat Gaza who claimed that a clandestine meeting at the swanky Le Meridien Hotel in the city here included one of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s media advisers, Abdul Jalil Hamid.

Muhammad Shafee broke his earlier vow of silence yesterday to denounce the allegations against him as an attempt to plunge the country’s government institutions into chaos in order to enable a takeover of Putrajaya, but stopped short of attributing it to the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact, headed by Anwar.

“His agenda is to create as much distrust as possible, against the institutions of government including the judiciary, to create chaos against the rule of law,” Muhammad Shafee replied when asked the motive of the allegations against him, referring to the blogger Ahmat Gaza.

“This Gaza is an idiot who does not know the true nature of this meeting,” the pro-Umno lawyer said yesterday when contacted by The Malaysian Insider.

He scoffed at the allegations of a conspiracy to do harm to Anwar, and put it down to the imagination of the unknown blogger Ahmat Gaza, whom he warned he would sue for defamation once the latter’s real identity is revealed. The allegations have since gone viral and been replicated on other websites.

Muhammad Shafee admitted that he had met with several media workers at Le Meridien on August 23, saying it was “not a secret”.

“It was organised by Utusan… someone called Fatiman, to explain to the media what is contemptuous law,” he said, adding that there were between eight and 15 media representatives present that day from several mainstream news organisations and named the Umno-owned Malay-language daily, national private broadcaster TV3, English-language daily The Star, among them.

He said he doubted Ahmat Gaza was a whistleblower among those present at that meeting because it was not a secret meeting as claimed in the blog.

Asked if Abdul Jalil was also present at that meeting, Muhammad Shafee said: “If Jalil was there, I vaguely think he was there, I’m not surprised if Jalil was there because he was there as a media person.”

He said he knew of Jalil but was not on close terms with the PM’s aide, adding that he only was aware of the latter’s current position after being informed as such by The Malaysian Insider.

A former senior journalist with international news agency Reuters, Abdul Jalil declined comment when contacted by The Malaysian Insider.

Muhammad Shafee said he had also been approached by TV3 for a similar explanation after both media companies were hauled up in the Shah Alam court for contemptuous coverage of the murder of cosmetics tycoon Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya last month.