The decision of the royal commission of inquiry into the Lingam Tape scandal not to call Anwar Ibrahim comes as a great shock. We are devastated by this absurd decision by a body that has been entrusted to seek the truth and defend justice. It is absolutely clear that this commission is not capable of seeking the truth or defending justice.
It is not only Anwar but all the others associated with him – R Sivarasa, Sim Tze Tsin and two other secret witness - were excluded from coming forward to give evidence and shed light on areas that were unclear and cloudy.
Some witnesses professing not to remember or claiming that they were unable to recall certain incidents and facts made it extremely difficult for the commission to arrive at any conclusive finding. And when Anwar volunteered to ‘fill in the gaps’ with the evidence he had in his hands, any commission committed to finding the truth would have jumped at his offer.
But it was not to be so. Why? Were certain commissioners who were part of the judiciary trying to protect certain individuals from being named for their own interest and the interests of their friends?
Anwar and his two colleagues were at the centre of the Lingam video controversy. The video was made public and police reports were made. Surely they have a right to appear before the commission to give evidence. Without them, there would be no commission.
The commission must be reminded: ‘One's first step in wisdom is to question everything - and one's last is to come to terms with everything’.
We now realise the wisdom in Anwar wanting commission chairperson Haidar Mohd Noor and two other commissioners to recuse themselves in the interest of justice. These three form the majority in the commission and, knowing their past - especially Haidar’s role in subverting the due process of justice in the nefarious Salleh Abbas episode in 1988 - that demand must be viewed positively and as being justified.
It is not known whether the decision not to call Anwar and the others was unanimous or a majority decision.
Malaysians found it difficult to understand what transpired during the proceedings on Jan 18 when Eusoff Chin was giving evidence. The leading officer, DPP Datuk Nordin Hassan, objected to the line of questioning by Ranjit Singh (representing the Bar Council), saying that it had gone outside the ambit of the terms of reference of the inquiry.
Commissioner Mahadev Shankar stated, ‘One of the terms of reference is to determine whether a misconduct had been committed by the person or persons identified in the video clip’. But Haidar responded, ‘Is it necessary to ask these questions?’
Following these exchanges, commissioner Steve Shim came into the picture and commented, ‘At this stage of questioning, certain things have been brought about. I’m not sure whether Tun (Eusoff) wants to say something. I notice he is not represented. Maybe we need to ask if he needs time to get legal representation in these proceedings’.
Later Haidar advised, ‘Maybe Tun would want to consider getting legal representation to guide the commission’. Then Eusoff Chin stated, ‘I think I need to get a counsel now’. The proceedings were then adjourned with no sitting in the afternoon.
This took place when Eusoff was being grilled and found himself in a tight spot. When both Shim and Haidar interceded at this juncture, it gave the impression that they were coming to Eusoff’s aid.
Eusoff being the ex-top man of the judiciary should have come with his counsel. But he didn’t. When Eusoff appeared as witness, both Steve Shim and Haidar could have asked him whether he was represented and could have even advised him to have legal representation at that stage. But they didn’t. When they interceded at the crucial point when Ranjit was heading somewhere, it gave rise to a lot of negative opinions.
Apart from this, we are also perturbed that the commission decided to hear certain evidence in camera. This is totally disappointing and absolutely unacceptable. It is imperative that a royal commission that is tasked to arrive at the truth should be open and transparent. It is all the more important when the common perception is that this commission was set up to cover up the truth. The commission should therefore have been sensitive and seen to be really interested in discovering the truth.
The commission may claim that they acted in their wisdom to be secretive and deny certain witnesses from giving evidence. But let the commission be reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s wisdom: ‘It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err’.
The writer is president, Aliran .