Monday, August 10, 2020

End Discrimination in the Administration of Criminal Justice in Malaysia Lock-Up and Prison Reforms, including overcrowding and pre-conviction detention, cannot be delayed


Media Statement – 10/8/2020

End Discrimination in the Administration of Criminal Justice in Malaysia

Lock-Up and Prison Reforms, including overcrowding

and pre-conviction detention, cannot be delayed


MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is appalled with the discrimination in the administration of justice, overcrowding of Malaysian prisons and lock-up conditions as recently again disclosed by Lim Guan Eng after he spent overnight in the lock-up.

Lock-Up and Prison Reforms

Lim Guan Eng was reported saying, “I had to change to the SPRM (MACC) orange T-shirt and slept on the wooden floor in the small lock-up (no pillow, no mattress),…”(Malaysiakini, 8/8/2020). It seems that he may be alone in the lock-up during his detention, but the norm is far worse when many are detained together in a single lock-up.

The conditions these suspects, not even accused persons, face in some of these lock-ups whilst under remand may be far worse even when compared to conditions of prison cells, which houses the convicted. Prison cells, for example, have beds, but not the case for lock-ups.

Repeated calls for reforms and improvement of Malaysian lock-ups and prison conditions, have yet to be addressed by the government, be it the past Barisan Nasional government, the Pakatan Harapan plus government or even the present Perikatan government.

Discrimination of victims of the Administration of Criminal Justice must end

Lim Guan Eng highlighted the differential treatment by the authorities compared to the treatment accorded to others prominent persons like the former premier Najib Razak.

Special treatment accorded to some politicians or personalities, however, is not the issue, but the discrimination against every other persons in Malaysia, who during investigation are forced to spend days in remand, staying in lock-ups which are sub-standard detention places compared to international standards and best practices.

When some of the recent politicians and prominent personalities, are being investigated, many are not even remanded, which means they do not have to spend days in police lock-ups, suffering not just deprivation of freedoms but also being subjected to poor living conditions in police lock-ups.

No remand is needed for the police or enforcement agencies to complete their investigations. Persons suspected of crimes can simply be asked to turn up at particular times for purpose of investigations. If, and only if, they refuse to corporate, will there be any justification for remand – requiring them to be detained and kept in police lock-ups during investigations.

Over-crowded Prisons

Malaysian Prisons Department Deputy Director-general (Security and Correctional) Datuk Alzafry Mohamed Alnassif Mohamed Adahan, was recently reported saying that there are currently ‘68,000 prison inmates are currently housed in 42 prisons nationwide…’ and that this ‘…number exceeded the prescribed capacity of 52,000…“The number consists of 54,508 locals and 14,095 foreigners. Occupancy is increasing and if you follow the trend, the number will not decrease,“ he said…’(Sun Daily, 8/8/2020)

The then Minister responsible under the previous PH government, Datuk Liew Vui Keong also talked about prison overcrowding. ‘Speaking on the severity of prison overcrowding here, Liew noted that one prison made prisoners sleep in shifts to mitigate….This was due to lack of beds for a 10-person cell housing 20 prisoners, forcing them to take turns with 10 to stand while the other 10 sleep, he said.’(Malay Mail, 9/3/2019). At time, it was said that ‘…Malaysia could only accommodate a maximum of 45,000 prisoners, but said the current number of prisoners has reached over 66,000…’

Besides, the issue of human rights violations, the other concern is the financial implications to Malaysians. In 2019, the then Minister said that the ‘…daily cost for a prisoner ranges from RM38 to RM41,…’. This means that the minimum daily cost involved for the 65,222 prisoners would be at least over RM2.4 million…’. Likewise, Malaysians will be paying when persons are remanded in lock-ups for the purpose of investigations.

According to the World Prison Brief, who claims data obtained from the Malaysian government, a large number of persons detained in Malaysian prisons are not persons already convicted and serving out their sentence. ‘In 2015, for example, there were a total of 51,602 persons in Malaysian prisons, and about 25.8% (13,000) of them were remand pre-trial prisoners.’ These pre-trial detainees would include those poor that cannot afford bail and others who were denied bail, which would include those charged with one of the many offences listed under SOSMA.

Pre-conviction Detention and delayed trials can cause the innocent to plead guilty

Pre-conviction detention or punishment is unjust, a violation of human rights. Article 11(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.” Punishment should best come only after one is convicted and sentenced by court after a fair trial.

Pre-conviction detention, with an uncertainty of when the trial will end, may even cause many an innocent person to simply plead guilty, for then, they can be certain as to when they will be freed to resume normal life.

After all, unlike the ‘richer’ accused, the possibility of an agreement with the prosecution to discontinue criminal proceedings if they return the fruits of their crime and/or part of it, this  possibility is almost non-existent for ordinary accused.

Compensation for innocent for the detention suffered and other consequences

Malaysia needs a law that provides for compensation to innocent victims of criminal justice system, who are ultimately found not guilty and also those remanded who are never even charged. They justly must be compensated for the deprivation of liberty, loss of income and other negative consequences of detention. Thailand today have an act which addresses this, being the Damages for the Injured Person and. Compensation and Expense for the Accused in Criminal Case Act, B.E. 2544.

Such laws may also deter abuse of the powers by law enforcers, and may reduce unnecessary remand or other pre-conviction detentions.

Therefore, MADPET

-          Calls for the end of discrimination of the victims of the administration of justice system in Malaysia;

-          Calls for an improvement and reform of lock-up and prison conditions to be in compliance with international standards and best practice;

-          Calls for an end of the practice of remanding suspects for the purpose of investigations, safe for very serious crimes and for justified reasons of fear of absconding;

-          Calls for the immediate release of all prisoners, who have yet to be tried and convicted, safe for those who have committed very serious crimes and/or have a high justifiable flight risk,

-          Calls for speedy trials, for all the yet to be convicted in Malaysian prisons, which should end not later than 6 months;

-          Call for Malaysia to introduce laws that will provide for just compensations to those who have been deprived their freedoms and rights, by reason of detention and otherwise, who are ultimately not convicted and/or found to be not guilty, and/or those that have not been even charged after spending days in remand;

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

About 68,000 convicts in 42 prisons nationwide 

08 Aug 2020 / 19:40 H.

KAJANG: About 68,000 prison inmates are currently housed in 42 prisons nationwide, according to Malaysian Prisons Department deputy director-general (Security and Correctional) Datuk Alzafry Mohamed Alnassif Mohamed Adahan.

He said the number was increasing every year, and for this year, the influx of new residents decreased due to the reduced crime cases as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic pandemic.

Without furnishing further details, he said, although, the latest number exceeded the prescribed capacity of 52,000, the prisons were able to accommodate them currently.

“The number consists of 54,508 locals and 14,095 foreigners. Occupancy is increasing and if you follow the trend, the number will not decrease,“ he said.

He said this to Bernama in conjunction with the Bank Rakyat Sinar Aidiladha Programme contribution presentation ceremony at the Kajang Prison Headquarters Auditorium, here today.

In another development, Alzafry Mohamed Alnassif said the department always practiced physical distancing and complied with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the government to break the Covid-19 epidemic chain.

“The prisons always practice the prescribed SOP so that there are no unwanted incidents and are careful in accepting new inmates, including the presence of the public,“ he said.

He said new inmates would be quarantined in a special designated block upon admission and the prisons would conduct an examination first before they were allowed to be placed with other inmates.

“If these inmates are found to be unwell, the Prisons Department will contact the Ministry of Health or the nearest hospital for further action,“ he said.

In early June, Bernama reported that a non-citizen prison inmate, an illegal immigrant at the Sungai Buloh prison, was confirmed positive for Covid-19.

Earlier, Bank Rakyat donated 34 cows worth RM166,600 to 1,830 frontline staff and zakat recipients in conjunction with the Hari Raya Aidiladha celebration. - Bernama - Sun Daily, 8/8/2020


Slept on wooden floor, no mattress or pillow - Guan Eng recounts night in lock-up

Modified 8 Aug 2020, 7:07 pm

Lim Guan Eng had to sleep on a wooden floor after he was detained overnight in the lock-up of the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya.

The former finance minister (above, left) recounted his ordeal in a Facebook post late last night.

He also claimed that his predecessor, Najib Abdul Razak, did not receive the same treatment when the latter was arrested in relation to the SRC International and 1MDB scandals.

“I had to change to the SPRM (MACC) orange T-shirt and slept on the wooden floor in the small lock-up (no pillow, no mattress), unlike my predecessor who did not spend a single night in the lock-up.

“Whether this is double-standard or not, only MACC can answer,” he added.

Meanwhile, the DAP secretary-general said he was upset upon learning that his wife, Betty Chew, was also arrested by the MACC in Penang yesterday, fearing that she too would have to spend the night in the lock-up.

Lim said his wife was detained although she had nothing to do with the Penang undersea tunnel project or government matters.

“I was relieved she was released,” he added.

'They know where it hurts most'

Lim, who had served as Penang chief minister before assuming the post of a federal minister after Pakatan Harapan won the last general election, reiterated his claim of being a victim of political persecution.

“PN (Perikatan Nasional government) going after me with baseless charges is to be expected. After all, this unelected government needs to reinforce its slim parliamentary majority.

“But to go for my wife, who even though a lawyer, does not enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, shows that they know how to hit you where you helplessly hurt most,” he added.

Yesterday, Lim claimed trial to a charge of soliciting a bribe with regard to the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court. He has since been released on bail.

The opposition leader is also expected to face additional charges on Aug 10 and 11 at the Penang Sessions Court.

Meanwhile, his wife would be charged at the Butterworth Sessions Court on Tuesday under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing, and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities (Amla) Act.

Najib in lock-up?

Yesterday, MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki told Malaysiakini that Lim was not the first politician to be detained overnight and defended his officers' actions.

He listed Najib as among the prominent politicians who had been detained overnight by the commission before being produced in court, though it is unclear if Najib had also spent the night in a lock-up.

He said the decision to arrest a suspect is up to the discretion of an investigating officer and is provided for under the law.

Najib has earlier claimed that he did not spend a night in the lock-up before he was brought to the court to be charged.

"I was not in the lock-up. I was in the MACC building," he told journalists after posting bail on Sept 20, 2018, for money laundering and power abuse charges involving 1MDB.

However, in a Facebook post yesterday, Najib claimed that he spent two nights in the MACC lock-up. Malaysiakini is seeking further clarification from the former premier regarding this. - Malaysiakini, 8/8/2020

Minister: Putrajaya aims to reduce prison population, not build more jails

Liew said the prisons in Malaysia could only accommodate a maximum of 45,000 prisoners, but said the current number of prisoners has reached over 66,000. — AFP pic
Liew said the prisons in Malaysia could only accommodate a maximum of 45,000 prisoners, but said the current number of prisoners has reached over 66,000. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 ― The government wants to lower convict numbers instead of building more prisons to accommodate them, Datuk Liew Vui Keong has said.

Liew noted that prisons nationwide were now over capacity, but reportedly said the government does not plan to construct more as this was not part of the government's key performance indicators (KPI).

“Our goal is to implement effective measures to reduce the number of prisoners, not to build more prisons, we are prepared to actively push for awareness activities, to advise youths to stay away from drugs, while at the same time guide convicts to return to the straight path through community reform programmes,” the minister in charge of legal affairs was quoted saying yesterday by local daily Sin Chew Daily.

Liew said the prisons in Malaysia could only accommodate a maximum of 45,000 prisoners, but said the current number of prisoners has reached over 66,000.

“Among the prisoners are drug offenders exceeding 46,000 people, amounting for 56 per cent. There are 1,281 prisoners on death row, among them 932 are drug traffickers, the other 300-odd includes the 19 who were involved in the Lahad Datu intrusion incident,” he also said.

Speaking on the severity of prison overcrowding here, Liew noted that one prison made prisoners sleep in shifts to mitigate.

This was due to lack of beds for a 10-person cell housing 20 prisoners, forcing them to take turns with 10 to stand while the other 10 sleep, he said.

During parliamentary debate on October 30, 2018, Liew had said that there were 65,222 convicts in prison, with about 36,313 or 55 per cent who were drug offenders.

Citing statistics from the prison authorities, Liew said that the daily cost for a prisoner ranges from RM38 to RM41, inclusive of cost for amenities and prison officer wages.

This means that the minimum daily cost involved for the 65,222 prisoners would be at least over RM2.4 million. - Malay Mail,9/3/2019



See related posts:-

Guan Eng's lock-up experience and Malaysian overcrowded prisons - When will there be REFORMS?

Prison conditions and OTHER prisoner rights? Why not, Anwar Ibrahim?

68 year old Singaporean sues Malaysia's Immigration Dept for RM2.67m over 'inhuman’/wrongful detention? Time for prison reforms?

25 - 37% of the total prison population in Malaysia are innocent? Poor - so cannot afford bail?

In Kajang Prison only 300 teenagers languish waiting YEARS for their day in court...

71.3 percent(?) of those in prison are Malays when only about 50% Malays in Malaysia - UMNO-BN failure?



Friday, August 07, 2020

Charges Against Guan Eng - Our values and principles? 'Double Standards'? It is not freedom of expression/assembly offence?

When former Prime Minister Najib was charged, many of his supporters shouted 'injustice' and 'political persecution, etc ....and now when Lim Guan Eng has been charged, likewise his supporters are claiming the same...Is this not funny?

Malaysians need to stand by their values and principles....friend or foe, being a 'victim' of the administration of justice mechanisms in Malaysia ought to receive a similar response > The courts, after a fair trial, will decide on guilt or innocence > and until that the presumption that one is innocent until proven guilty applies.

Law enforcers and prosecutors, and judges must always be INDEPENDENT and carry out their duties and responsibilities independently in accordance to the law. They ought never to be found acting according to the instructions, and/or 'whims and fancies' of the government of the day.

Right to CRIMINAL COMPENSATION for victims must be put in place - Anyone charged, tried and found NOT guilty deserves to be COMPENSATED by the State. Anyone, who have been charged, and then find the prosecution discontinuing the case mid-stream ought to be compensated.

Anyone arrested and remanded but then are not charged in court also deserves to be COMPENSATED by the State.

This is only JUST - for whenever anyone is arrested, remanded and/or charged, the reasonably will have suffered much losses - impact on their jobs, business and/or income, the cost that they had to incur in engagement of lawyers and defending themselves, the cost they suffered in how their name/image gets affected by such enforcement/prosecutions - the biggest victim is always the POOR - the rich lesser.

We need a good and independent enforcement and prosecution - and thus the EXISTENCE of criminal compensation would DETER wrongful(or unnecessary) arrest, remand and/or prosecution.

CRIMINAL COMPENSATION rates - well, reasonably it is best that it be legislated, setting a fixed sum, the same for the poor and the very rich. [Of course, even after receiving this legal compensation, nothing is preventing further civil court actions asking for additional damages and cost.

In a civil case, the courts do award costs - which will cover some(if not all) the monies expended for lawyers, etc BUT not so in CRIMINAL cases - you may be freed without charge, charged but found not guilty - but the victim is not even compensated for the cost that he had incurred in his defence - the cost of lawyers, etc... THAT is why CRIMINAL COMPENSATION must be an automatic legal right.

Now, every Malaysian knows, that no one needs to be remanded and forced to stay in police lock-ups to facilitate police or other enforcement agencies investigations - INVESTIGATION can still continue without any REMAND - This is the awareness after what happened to Najib, Rosmah, Zahid Ibrahim, etc... Police can arrest and release suspects, simply requiring them to turn up at that time or this time for the purposes of investigations - However, if they fail to turn up, then there may be no choice but to arrest and detain under remand for investigations...

PAKATAN HARAPAN plus government came into power with the promise of REFORMS - but, after they got power, many are disappointed that the promises of REFORM was not speedily implemented - especially the REPEAL of bad laws, including the bad provisions in some laws.

SOSMA was not repealed, let alone amended - an amendment to allows for Bail for those charged with the many offences listed in SOSMA also did not happen.

SEDITION Act - Not only was it not repealed, but it was also used during the PH reign. Some argued that it may be still needed for 'seditious' comments made against the Royalty - well, then it could have been amended at the very least. Sedition is a bad law because it criminalizes even statements which are TRUE and/or justified. So, even if you say something true, it still could be an offence under the Sedition Act.

Detention Without Trial laws like POCA, POTA still exist...The problem with Detention Without Trial laws, is that the victim cannot even challenge in court the REASONS used by the government to detain/restrict a person. So, false reasons can be used, can they not? And you have NO right to challenge it even in court. These laws can be used because they simply cannot prove the person guilty in court? Guilt is determined by Court - but under Detention Without Trial laws, they simply allow the authorities to avoid the Courts. But PH did not repeal these laws...

Many are angry about what happened in the Musa Aman case, where the prosecution discontinued proceedings and the courts acquitted them. ACQUITTAL means that even if later new and sufficient evidence comes to light, then the person acquitted CAN NEVER again be charged for the same offences. Normally prosecution discontinues a criminal case because on evaluation, prosecution may decide that there is insufficient evidence not to successfully prove the guilt of the person/accussed beyond reasonable doubt to get a conviction. To continue any criminal case in that situation, with the high possibility that the accused will get ACQUITTED is unjust and foolish - so they discontinue the case, and justly the court will 'DISCHARGE NOT AMOUNTING AN ACQUITTAL'.

Many were unhappy as to what happened in the 'Cowgate Scandal' case, but then, when PH came into power, the same happened in the Lim Guan Eng and even the LTTE case.

So when the PH Plus lost power, by reason of 'party hopping' and other reasons, and during the rule of the new Perikatan Nasional government, similar things happen in the Musa Aman's case - I would say that the now opposition, previously in PH Plus, have simply lost the MORAL AUTHORITY to criticize.

Do DAP, PKR, Amanah, Warisan and others in the PH PLUS government previously have the MORAL AUTHORITY anymore ...OR the people's trust anymore?

Even if the MAJORITY in the PH Plus government decided not to REPEAL these bad laws, parties that held a different position could always VOICE out their differences so everyone knows. They could have said that the party wanted to abolish this and that bad LAW but will abide with the majority decision of the coalition government members > Then, at least people will know that these parties have not changed or abandoned the stance/positions.

Nazri Aziz, when Minister in Barisan Nasional, several times came out and stated his personal position that the death penalty ought to be abolished, but he also said that it was his personal position, and not the position of the then Cabinet (or even his own party or the BN).

Likewise, individual political parties and politicians in the PH Plus government, could have done the same - reassuring members and supporters that their 'position', principles and struggles remain the same - but alas, they generally did not - and some of them, as Ministers, continued to use these draconian bad laws.

Najib's supporters continue to believe in his innocence, despite the conviction by the High Court ...and now Guan Eng's supporters is doing the same...

Is LIM GUAN ENG guilty? Well, nothing wrong with having and expressing your personal opinions - but it is BEST that we wait for the TRIAL and let the courts decide especially when the charges are about corruption or abuse of powers...

Different would be if the offence were connected to words spoken or comments made, or even exercising of one's right to freedom of expression, opinion and/or peaceful assembly?

Is Guan Eng innocent of these corruption and abuse of power charges? Are all Opposition politicians 'crime-free'? Nobody can 100% say this is the case - we just do not know.

We simply have to trust the prosecution and the Judges will be truly INDEPENDENT and do their jobs as required by law, uninfluenced by the politicians and/or the government of the day.

Judges are also human and thus not infallible. They can make 'mistakes'. Remember the Altantuya murder trial - the High Court convicted, then the Court of Appeal reversed the decision and acquitted, and then Federal Court decided that otherwise and convicted the two. Today, with media reporting of some cases, the ordinary man will be able to also see what happens in court ...and may even form their own opinion of guilt or innocence, which may be different from the decision of the courts, that is OK with regard to personal opinions, but what the courts ultimately decide INDEPENDENTLY stands as the final decision. Even after the Federal Court decides, the convicted still has options to apply for reviews, etc - to urge the courts to reconsider.

Was the discontinuance and acquittal in the 'Cowgate scandal case', the previous Lim Guan Eng's case, the LTTE case, the Musa Aman's case not INDEPENDENT decisions of the court, or were they 'politically' or otherwise influenced? If they were, do we in Malaysia have sufficient avenues to ensure Justice be done? Is there are NEED for reform.

LTTE case - the problem then was the unhappiness with the denial of bail under SOSMA...and the unhappiness of the offence of being in possession books, posters and other materials (allegedly terrorist material)- Then, the PH Plus government should have done the following fast:-
- REPEAL or amend SOSMA
- Remove such offences of possessing books, articles and paraphenelia allegedly related to 'terrorism' from the current list of SOSMA offences;
- Repealed that offence of possession of such materials as an offence in Malaysia

BUT then after the discontinuation of proceedings and ACQUITTAL of the accused in the LTTE case, PH PLUS failed to do this > not even the Tabling of a Bill for first reading.

Did any of the MPs even table a 'Private Member's Bill', which they can do as was done by then Hadi Awang when he was in Opposition - that motion to amend Act 355, that will give power to state government the power to increase penalties for Syariah offences - in terms of length of imprisonment, fines and/or even 'whipping'. Hadi, in his motion NEVER asked for the cutting of limbs, and clearly did not want the death penalty. Act 355, just like the Local Government and Housing Act and similar Acts, that restricts State powers for matters that really ought to be under the State according to our Federal Constitution really ought to be REPEALED. Such a Federal Law also prevented State Governments from having Local Council elections in their States. DAP and PKR were for Local Council Elections - but when in power simply did not REPEAL that Federal law that prevents State Government from having Local Council Elections in their State. WHY?

During the previous BN rule, many of the powers of the State and Local Government have been removed/restricted by the Federal Government through Federal laws - and may not be right?

Because of his previous acquittal, LIM GUAN ENG can never be charged again for the same offences...and that is certainly not right, for we can never know what other evidence may emerge later, which may be sufficient to find him guilty of these crimes.

Corruption and abuse of powers was major concern pre-GE14, but has there been any new and clearer laws and offences brought in by PH PLus?

End of the day - let us stick to our principles and values > and not be swayed by politicians and political parties.

REMEMBER - the anger of many in Malaysia is the unhappiness with sudden change of the 'coalition government' and the return of power of BN, even before the PH Plus(Alternative Government) had the opportunity to show the people of Malaysia how they can be a better government for Malaysia - Many will say, that the promised reforms were coming and would have come during their term, that suddenly got shortened. But the fact, is that it did not come fast within the first 20 plus months of rule - but also a concern, that they all changed after they managed to come into power...

Guan Eng claims trial to allegedly soliciting bribes from Penang undersea tunnel project contractor

Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng arrives at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 7, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng arrives at the Kuala Lumpur
Court Complex August 7, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 7 — Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng pleaded not guilty after he was charged this morning with allegedly seeking a bribe to help a company be appointed for the infrastructure works including the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel project.

The DAP secretary-general, whose lead counsel is Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, was formally accused of soliciting the bribe from one Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli.

The charge sheet alleged that Lim, who is also a former finance minister, asked for 10 per cent of the potential profits obtained by the contractors from the completed project.

He was accused of committing the offence nearby the Gardens Hotel along Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, within the capital, in March 2011, when he held the position of chief minister.

The charge was read out to Lim in Malay, who responded with “not guilty” in Malay when asked for his plea. - Malay Mail, 7/8/2020

Fresh evidence led to acquittal of Lim Guan Eng: DPP

The Penang High Court's acquittal of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng shocked the anti-graft agency.
The Penang High Court's acquittal of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng shocked the anti-graft agency.

He defends move to drop graft case amid calls for more transparency on basis for decision

Malaysia's deputy public prosecutor (DPP) has defended his decision to drop the corruption case against Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, amid calls for more transparency and scrutiny of whether there was political interference in the process.

DPP Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria said in a statement yesterday that the charges against Mr Lim were withdrawn after fresh evidence surfaced during the trial.

Without giving details, Datuk Mohamad Hanafiah said that the evidence had emerged during the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.

"I concluded that as a result of the cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses who have testified so far, the evidence supporting the first charge under Section 23 of the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) Act and under Section 165 of the Penal Code has been substantially weakened. This conclusion was arrived in the light of fresh evidence that has arisen during the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses," he said.

"I would not be fulfilling my duties as deputy public prosecutor to let the case continue, knowing full well that the case against both Lim Guan Eng and (businesswoman) Phang Li Koon would not succeed at the end of the prosecution case," he said.

On Monday, the Penang High Court acquitted Mr Lim of two charges - that he used his former position as chief minister of Penang to approve the conversion of land, and that he gained gratification for himself by buying a bungalow below market value.

The prosecution had asked for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, but the judge ordered a full acquittal instead.

Fuelling the outcry over Mr Lim's acquittal was anti-graft agency MACC's statement on Monday that it was shocked by the decision to drop the case, which it said was made by the Attorney-General's (A-G) office, and not the MACC.

Sources told The Straits Times that the decision does not sit well with the commission as its investigators believe there is evidence of Mr Lim abusing his position.

"What is upsetting is, the new government reinstated a person of integrity like Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull back in MACC, only to have the charges in a high-profile case like this thrown out.

"If there was insufficient evidence, the A-G would not have initiated prosecution and charged them in the first place. This doesn't only reflect on the judicial system, but also on the MACC," a source said.

Mr Shukri's return to the agency this year was lauded because he was made to leave in 2016 by the former Barisan Nasional administration after probing financial mismanagement at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Another source said: "Shukri was so upset and angry when he found out (about the decision) that he went to the AGC's (Attorney-General's Chambers) office to seek clarification. There, he made it clear that he would not hesitate to 'open a file' on anyone who is a 'puppet' controlled by hidden hands."

Mr Lim's acquittal comes after his lawyers filed representations to the AGC for the case to be dropped after the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government took power in May, arguing that the charges against Mr Lim were politically motivated.

Mr Lim was charged with corruption in 2016, when PH formed the opposition. He is secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party, one of the four member parties of PH.

Ms Phang, who sold the bungalow to Mr Lim, was also acquitted of the corruption charge against her.

Opposition politicians and civil society groups have questioned this "selective non-prosecution", and asked the AGC to give reasons for its decision.

Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki described the decision as a "black mark in the history of New Malaysia". "The move to drop Guan Eng's case without a solid explanation and clear justification by the AGC only highlights that justice is not being served," he said.

MP Tian Chua, who is a vice-president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, which is part of PH, yesterday urged the AGC to explain the basis for the acquittal to uphold the promise of transparency given by the PH government.

Some lawyer groups have also called for Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, recently appointed by the PH administration, to resign for not upholding the rule of law.

However, Mr Mohamad Hanafiah said that Mr Thomas had no hand in the decision to withdraw the case, after he recused himself from the matter last month.

He also stressed that the decision to initiate or discontinue any prosecution is a matter within the prerogative and powers of the public prosecutor, and that his decision was arrived at without any influence from any quarters.

How the case unfolded


The controversy over the bungalow purchase made by then Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng began after an Umno Member of Parliament alleged in March 2016 that Mr Lim had bought the RM2.8 million (S$931,000) home for much lower than its actual value.

The allegations by Datuk Shabudin Yahaya about the two-storey bungalow in Jalan Pinhorn, which Mr Lim had purchased from businesswoman Phang Li Koon in 2015, set off a chain of events which led to Mr Lim being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).


MACC officials arrested Mr Lim and Ms Phang on June 29, 2016. Both were charged at the Penang Sessions Court a day later.

Mr Lim, 58, was charged with abusing his position to approve a re-zoning application by a company called Magnificent Emblem to convert agricultural land in Balik Pulau into a residential zone - a move that would have raised the land's value dramatically.

He was alleged to have committed the offence while chairing a Penang state planning committee meeting on July 18, 2014. According to local media reports, Ms Phang had been a director of Magnificent Emblem at the time.

Mr Lim also faced a second charge of using his position to obtain a plot of land and the Jalan Pinhorn bungalow in July 2015 from Ms Phang for RM2.8 million.

The court documents stated that the actual market value of the bungalow was RM4.27 million.

Mr Lim would have faced up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Ms Phang was charged with abetting Mr Lim to obtain the bungalow at an undervalued price. She would have faced up to two years in jail if convicted.

Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mr Lim, who was released on bail, was adamant from the start that he was innocent, saying that he would not "submit to such dirty and vicious political plays to destroy my reputation".


The trial, which began on March 26 this year, saw 25 witnesses being called in. It was postponed briefly to allow Mr Lim to campaign in Malaysia's May 9 General Election.

After Mr Lim's Pakatan Harapan alliance was elected to power in May, his lawyers filed representations to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) for the charges to be dropped, saying they were politically motivated.

The High Court gave the prosecution until Sept 3 to decide whether to proceed with the corruption charges.


On Sept 3, the AGC withdrew all the charges.

Although the prosecution had requested a dismissal not amounting to an acquittal, High Court judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail acquitted both the accused.

She said the charges could not "be hanging over the heads of the accused indefinitely". - Straits Times, 5/9/2018

Penang High Court acquits Guan Eng, Phang of corruption

GEORGE TOWN: The High Court here on Monday granted a discharge amounting to an acquittal on former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon over their corruption charges, two years ago.

This followed an application made by Deputy Public Prosecutor Datuk Masri Mohd Daud to the court, based on a representation sent by the defence to the Attorney-General to withdraw the case, on July 6.

Masri had applied for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

Lim’s lead counsel, Ramkarpal Singh, and Phang’s lead counsel, Datuk V. Sithambaram, had requested for a full acquittal.

Judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail, in her judgment, agreed with the counsels that the charges “cannot be hanging over the head of the accused indefinitely.”

She stressed that there must be “finality.”

She said a total of 25 witnesses had been called and the case was last heard in March.

“The court cannot be slow. After six months, the prosecution has not proceeded with the matter. We do not conduct cases on installment. There must be a stop. No commas.

“The charge cannot be left hanging over the head of the accused indefinitely. We cannot be waiting for another six months for the case to proceed.

“I cannot agree with the prosecution’s application because by doing so the court cannot close the case file. That cannot be the case. If we want to proceed, then we should proceed from A to Z.

“So after studying the whole case, and the long duration to get the decision, the court orders both accused to be discharged amounting to an acquittal,” she said.

Earlier, Masri told the court that they had studied the defence’s representation and the prosecution decided to withdraw the case under provisions of Section 254(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

“This withdrawal is however a discharge not amounting to an acquittal,” he said.

Ramkarpal then argued that the prosecution’s application meant that there would not be a “full stop” to the case, but merely a postponement.

“We can understand that if they can’t get witnesses. However, the prosecution has indicated that they do not wish to proceed with the case at all.

“So, the proper order should be a full acquittal,” he said.

Sithambaram said if the court acceded to the prosecution, then this would mean that the charges had been withdrawn, but three or six months later, they could continue with it.

“This will be a nightmare for the accused. There has to be a finality.

“The justice of this matter is not about the personality involved but the 25 witnesses who were called to testify and cross-examined,” he added.

As soon as the court stood down, 58-year-old Lim, who is currently the Finance Minister, was seen hugging Phang, 46.

He was then congratulated and embraced by his supporters, including DAP state executive councillor, members of parliament and assemblymen who were present.

Also seen in court were Phang’s family members.

Speaking outside the court, Ramkarpal said the court’s order meant that there could not be any further prosecution on the accused.

“We are glad that our representation has been accepted. The fact that it took a long time meant that it had been studied thoroughly.

“We are very satisfied with the decision,” he noted.

Sithambaram said he was grateful that their representations were accepted.

“The learned judge made the right decision in acquitting the accused. This means they can now carry on with their lives,” he added.

The long-awaited trial began on March 26 this year, and was subsequently postponed pending the 14th general election.

It was further postponed when the accused made separate representations for their charges to be dropped.

On June 30, 2016, Lim claimed trial to using his position as a public officer, namely, the then chief minister of Penang, to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng.

He was accused of doing so by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in the southwest district to a company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.

He was charged with committing the offence while chairing the State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room, Level 28, Komtar building here, on July 18, 2014.

The charge under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 provides an imprisonment for up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

In the second charge, Lim also claimed trial to using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a house, located at No 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, from Phang for RM2.8 million, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property’s then market value of RM4.27 million.

The offence was allegedly committed at No 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town here on Oct 21, 2015.

The charge was under Section 165 of the Penal Code, which provides an imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine, or both.

Phang was charged with abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued cost at the same place and date.

She was charged under Section 109 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 165 of the same law, which provides an imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine, or both, upon conviction. New Straits Times, 3/9/2018