Rosmah no show in court today, still in Singapore

(NST) – Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was supposed to return from her trip to Singapore by Nov 21, but there was no sign of her in the Court of Appeal today.

She was supposed to appear for the hearing of her appeal to disqualify Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in her corruption case and to annul the trial proceedings.

Although Sri Ram had strongly urged the court to issue an arrest warrant against her for breaching a court order, a three-man bench led by judge Datuk Hanipah Farikullah unanimously decided to give Rosmah a chance and exercised its discretion to withhold issuing a warrant.

The court also allowed for the proceeding today to be adjourned to Monday as requested by Rosmah’s counsel Datuk Jagjit Singh as his client has not returned to Malaysia.

In the decision, Hanipah noted the counsel’s admission that Rosmah’s failure to turn up in court was in non-compliance of the court order and the counsel’s oversight in not properly advising his client to appear in court today.

“According to the counsel, this is not intentionally done for the reasons explained earlier to this court.

“However, the counsel for the respondent (Sri Ram) has raised serious objection to the appellant’s (Rosmah) conduct in not complying with the court order for her to be back in Malaysia by Nov 21 and strongly urged the court to issue a warrant of arrest for the appellant’s absence in court today.

“Having considered the submissions by both parties, we are exercising our discretion to withhold issuing a warrant of arrest against the appellant at this juncture and would give an opportunity for the her to appear before us as undertaken by her counsel,” the judge said.

She said the court had also considered the counsel’s submissions that Rosmah had never been absent for her trial proceedings at the High Court.

Other judges on the panel were Datuk M. Gunalan and Datuk Hashim Hamzah.

At the onset of the proceeding, Hanipah pointed out that she did not see Rosmah in court.

She said the court did not receive any notice for a further extension on Rosmah’s travel period.

Hanipah said the bench was only given a letter from Rosmah’s counsel notifying that she will be returning to Malaysia on Dec 6 and the letter was only tendered to the court 10 minutes before the proceeding today started.

“The letter states that your client will return on Dec 6 when clearly the court order says that she must return by Nov 21.

“We are going by the court order. If there is a reason or further extension, you have to state it to the court,” she said.

Jagjit then explained that there was a change in his client’s travel plans considering the change in the quarantine rules under the new Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) between Malaysia and Singapore.

“I take full responsibility on this,” Jagjit said, giving his word that his client would appear before the court on Monday.

Sri Ram argued that the only proper order for this court to make is to issue a warrant of arrest and to cancel Rosmah’s bail as she had disobeyed the court order.

He said Rosmah should not be treated differently from other accused persons or the public will lose confidence in the courts.

“We are not talking about children, we are talking about adults who know what their responsibilities and liabilities are.

“My only point is the order is not obeyed. If this had been a case of a normal citizen, an Ahmad Bin Abdul, Muniandy or Ah Chong, it would have been different. I don’t know why it should be different with Rosmah Binti Mansor.

“We have to be guided by the court order. If people are going to ignore this then what is the point of making these orders. The natural order is a warrant of arrest must be issued and bail must be cancelled,” he said.

On Oct 15, the High Court allowed the application by the wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for the temporary release of her passport for her to travel to Singapore to visit her daughter who was about to give birth at that time.

Judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan allowed her to hold on to the document from Oct 22 and that she must return to Malaysia by Nov 21 and surrender the passport to the court by Dec 6.

On Sept 24, the court denied Rosmah’s bid to disqualify Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in her corruption case involving a project to provide solar hybrid energy for rural schools in Sarawak and to annul the ongoing trial proceedings.

Zaini, in his judgement said Sri Ram’s appointment by then Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas was validly done under Section 376(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

He had on the same day dismissed an application by Rosmah’s lawyers for a stay of the trial pending the appeal over the decision.

Rosmah is accused of soliciting RM187.5 million and two counts of receiving bribes of RM6.5 million from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd’s former managing director Saidi Abang Samsuddin, through her former special officer Datuk Rizal Mansor.

She was accused of committing the offences between Jan 2016 and Sept 2017.

She purportedly received the money in exchange for helping the company obtain a RM1.25 billion project to provide solar energy to 369 rural schools in Sarawak.