Will Najib act against Home Minister and IGP?

Even before the haze from the Riau and Sumatra peat fires, which have caused state of emergency to be declared and thousands of schools to be closed in various states, have been fully resolved, Malaysia has been hit by a new haze emergency – the haze of accountability, integrity and good governance revolving around two top security officials, the Inspector-General of Police and the Home Minister.

Who would have thought that in matter of 48 hours, it was possible to reduce to smithereens the credibility and authority of the country’s two topmost security officials, the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

On Wednesday, Kuala Lumpur High Court judge, Justice Datuk V.T. Singham (who turned 65 today and went on optional retirement a year before his term is up), found Khalid who was Selangor police chief at the time responsible in the death of suspected car thief A Kugan during police custody from grievous injuries at the Taipan police station on Jan 20, 2009.

In a landmark ruling which saw the family of Kugan winning RM801,700 in damages, Justice Singham found the police and the Government liable for Kugan’s death and said Khalid was liable for misfeasance of public office.

Yesterday, the Federal Court dismissed Zahid’s bid to strike out an assault suit filed against him by a businessman Amir Bazli Abdullah in connection with assault in 2006.

Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, who headed a five-member bench, said the issues brought up by Zahid’s counsel Shamsul Bahrain Ibrahim were factual and should be heard in a trial at the High Court.

With this ruling of the highest court in the country, the civil suit by Amir Bazli Abdullah against the home minister will begin in the High Court in Shah Alam on Aug 26.

It is indeed the height of irony that only a fortnight ago, the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said that Malaysian voters had conveyed a clear message in the 13th General Election that they want the government to be more stern and bold in defending the important institutions in the country, “enforcing the law, upholding the country’s Constitution”, but these two incidents involving the Home Minister and the IGP have conveyed the exact opposite message that the credibility, integrity and authority of national institutions are facing unprecedented assault after the 13GE.

It is unlikely the Home Minister can suggest that the IGP should assume full responsibility for Kugan’s death when there is the question as to why the police had not carried out investigations and charged Zahid for the offence of assault against Amir Bazli in 2006.

Similarly, it is unlikely that the IGP can suggest that the Home Minister should assume full responsibility for the assault case of 2006 when Khalid himself is in the dock over responsibility for Kugan’s death in police custody in 2009.

Both the Home Minister and the IGP seemed to be trapped in a lock-step, with neither able to assert full authority over the other because each has a skeleton in the cupboard.

Is this the way for the Barisan Nasional government to restore national and international confidence in the key institutions in the country after the 13GE?

In less than two months, the post-13GE Barisan Nasional government is facing a full-blown crisis in good governance.

Malaysians are entitled to know how the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak proposes to resolve this second national emergency of the haze of accountability, integrity and good governance revolving around two top security officials, whether he would terminate, suspend or ask both Zahid and Khalid to take leave of absence from their offices until both of them have cleared themselves of the serious charges and allegations of improprieties and wrongdoings made against them.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah