Another Zahid ‘sideshow’ puts Anwar in a bind yet again
One wonders if the court will feel compelled to call upon the prime minister to justify the need for Zahid to travel while his court case is ongoing. What if the court disagrees with the prime minister? Would that not bring Anwar embarrassment?
Ibrahim M Ahmad, Free Malaysia Today
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi appears to have put Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in yet another bind by his continued presence in the Cabinet as deputy prime minister.
On Thursday, it was reported that Zahid had applied to the Kuala Lumpur High Court for the “permanent return” of his passport “so that he can carry out his official duties”.
Criminal lawyers will tell you that the impounding by the court of an accused’s passport is a somewhat routine condition imposed on persons accused of criminal offences.
The reason for the condition is straightforward. It prevents an accused from leaving the country before the conclusion of his case.
This is particularly important when a person is considered a “flight risk”, that is, someone likely to try to escape from the country before his or her trial begins.
That is not to say that an accused whose passport has been impounded cannot leave the country at all.
In recent times, former prime minister Najib Razak, his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and his lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, have been among those who have successfully secured the temporary return of their passports to enable them to make overseas trips for specific purposes.
Suffice it to say that the apparent ease with which those applications succeeded did not go down well with the public, with many complaining that elite personalities enjoy a different standard as compared to the man in the street.
The general rule is that if an accused person’s passport is detained, a court may allow him to retrieve it temporarily to enable him to travel for a specific purpose.
It is a matter for which the court exercises its discretion by considering various factors, including the seriousness of the offences with which the accused person has been charged, and the circumstances surrounding the intended travel overseas.
That being the case, reports of Zahid asking for the “permanent return” of his passport, if true, appear to indicate a certain level of presumptuousness on his part. This is due in no small part to his position as deputy prime minister.
No doubt, Zahid’s application will be considered by the court on its merits, but its reporting has already generated several questions among the rakyat for which answers have become necessary.
Should a man facing 47 corruption charges in court – for which a prima facie case has been established and his defence already called – be appointed to the Cabinet, and to such a senior position as well?
What are these “official duties” which require Zahid’s personal presence overseas?
Has the prime minister determined in the best interests of the country that these duties can only be performed by Zahid and no one else?
One wonders if the court will feel compelled to call upon the prime minister to justify the need for Zahid to travel while his court case is ongoing.
What if the court disagrees with the prime minister? Would that not bring Anwar embarrassment?
It is not the court alone that the prime minister needs to satisfy.
Zahid’s application also leaves Anwar under intense pressure to justify to the court of public opinion why it is necessary for Zahid to continue as deputy prime minister, and why it is so important that he performs duties beyond Malaysia’s shores.
Bersatu deputy president Ahmad Faizal Azumu is not alone in calling for Anwar to relieve Zahid of his duties as deputy prime minister while his corruption trial is ongoing.
It is a call that the prime minister must heed so that his administration is no longer weighed down by the never-ending stream of Zahid sideshows.