PRESS STATEMENT BY DATUK ZAID IBRAHIM
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim
I wish to make this press statement as there have been numerous queries from the media to me as to why my law firm, Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST) were discharged by Dato’ Sri Najib Razak as solicitors on record for his ongoing appeals in the SRC International matter before the Federal Court.
This morning, lead counsel, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, informed the Federal Court that my law firm has been discharged.
I confirm that this decision was made by Dato’ Sri Najib with my full support and agreement.
As I understand it, Dato’ Sri Najib’s decision was prompted by his belief that his lawyers cannot serve any useful purpose as lawyers for him anymore in the ongoing hearing relating to the appeals in the Federal Court.
Dato’ Sri Najib believes that the prevailing assumption of the judges is that the reorganisation of his legal team towards the end of last month was part of a tactical ploy and a ruse to stifle and stall proceedings so as to avoid or delay the final judgment and sentence to be passed on him or for political reasons.
As a politician myself, I can confirm that this unfortunate assumption is furthest from the truth.
As a lawyer, and who was asked to assist Dato’ Sri Najib in this matter, I have seen materials and the papers to state categorically that the fresh evidence that he was seeking to admit would have had a nuclear effect on the issue of Justice Nazlan Ghazali’s conflict of interest and apparent bias in being the Trial Judge and passing Judgment and sentence on Dato’ Sri Najib.
I regret that despite the best efforts of lead counsel, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, and the lawyers in my team both from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, we have not been able to dispel this sad misconception.
The fact that Dato’ Sri Najib may have just been seeking justice appears to have been uncharitably disregarded.
The decision for me and my Firm to accept this Brief rested primarily on our view that Dato’ Sri Najib’s case called for a new approach and fresh perspectives. It also required him to abandon unnecessarily vitriolic matters and personal attacks on Justice Nazlan who had presided over the trial.
Instead, we were intent on focusing strictly on the legal and factual issues surrounding the case, concentrating especially on the issues of bias and conflict of interests.
We believe from an objective analysis of the facts of the case that the evidence was overwhelmingly in Dato’ Sri Najib’s favour.
In order to ensure that the application to adduce fresh evidence was properly and strongly put forward before the Court, I consulted my friend and colleague in Singapore, Niru Pillai of Niru & Co LLC. I know that Niru can bring added value and would be a very good architect to bring completely different perspectives to any difficult cases. Niru put together a team in his Firm to assist ZIST. He also then reached out to take independent advice from leading counsel in criminal law and in the current situation facing the application to adduce the fresh evidence and the appeals.
Given Niru’s vast network of professional relationships in India with leading lights and doyens in the Indian legal profession, Niru sought out 2 very established leading Senior Advocates, Sidharth Luthra and Kavin Gulati.
Niru officially briefed them and the Indian Legal Team was put together with Rony John and Avi Tandon assisting.
In my view, this was a great team and I can confirm that Dato’ Sri Najib was extremely pleased with its work.
We believed that the application was well founded and was very compelling. Unfortunately, the Court in its wisdom did not think so. The application was not allowed.
Even Dato’ Sri Najib’s request for a short adjournment to enable our legal team to properly get up the case, and for counsel to adequately prepare his submissions and arguments for what is clearly an extremely complex and high-profile case, was denied outright.
In the short four weeks since we were engaged, we have painstakingly perused the relevant appeal records, reviewed substantial affidavits, carried out extensive research on the law, prepared the final response affidavits and filed extensive written submissions. This was a monumental and herculean task on its own, given the short period within which we had to be ready because the Court refused to even adjourn the applications, let alone the appeals.
We had even prepared a fresh motion to seek a Review of the Federal Court’s decision to deny Dato’ Sri Najib’s application to adduce fresh evidence. This has not been filed.
We are more than satisfied that we have done our utmost best for Dato’ Sri Najib.
It is beyond belief that the highest Court in the land would deny Dato’ Sri Najib the right to adduce relevant material and necessary evidence to ensure that the truth is established and justice is done. The application was to show how manifestly egregious was the conflict of interest on the part of Justice Nazlan. In my view, the Judge was clearly biased. He had no business being the Trial Judge in the SRC matter. It is clear to us that the setback which Dato’ Sri Najib has suffered is a grave injustice arising from a manifest error of law and certainly derailed all efforts to pursue his constitutional rights that he is entitled to.
We recognize and accept that Dato’ Sri Najib is at a critical point in the legal timeline of his SRC case, and with his personal liberty at stake, we accept graciously his decision to discharge us.
We understand perfectly well that he must do what is best for himself.
I stand by my earlier statement that my Firm will never abandon Dato’ Sri Najib as our client, or any other client. That is neither our culture nor tradition. Nonetheless, the exigencies of the current exceptional circumstances and situation impel us to be mindful of the needs of the client. The client’s interest is paramount. I wish Dato’ Sri Najib the very best. I will always be there to help him in any situation, as a lawyer and a friend.
I have learnt many things over the last few weeks. For instance, I did not know that lawyers in criminal cases must get permission from the courts to discharge themselves, which I believe is a startling new legal proposition. Neither did I appreciate that inflexibility and rigidity were essential ingredients of justice. I always thought the foremost ingredients of justice were fairness, reasonableness and compassion and that these took precedence over administrative efficiency.
On a personal note, I learnt who my real friends are. Retired judge Mahadev Shanker ranks very highly among them, and I thank him for his kind words to me in recent times.
Not, though, are those who besmirched my character because my work has sometimes involved in taking up unpopular causes.
Nonetheless, I will always remain to be determined not to be shaken off my core beliefs. I will always fight for justice, whether for the ordinary man or for the King. In doing so, I will also want to ensure that justice is not only done but also seen to be done.
No one can stop me from pursuing what I believe truly in my heart and mind. The law has been my passion and helping others has been my calling.
I intend to keep calm and carry on.