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Something rotten at the Duta courts
Published:  Jun 25, 2011 6:26 PM
Updated: Jun 28, 2011 5:04 AM

Shakespeare wrote in the play 'Hamlet' that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark". Court of Appeal judge NH Chan had also made similar remarks when he wrote the Ayer Molek Rubber Co Bhd vs Insas Bhd judgment in 1995, where he described the case he was presiding over as being about an injustice perpetrated by a court of law.

Can yesterday's conviction of the infamous 'Datuk T' trio be said a travesty of justice deserving the local version that goes "something is rotten in Duta courts" resulting in possibly another charge looming over Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim?

Anwar had yesterday maintained the government's conspiracy in the matter, asking how can one respect a government when its instruments are so blatantly used politically.

Let's back-track a bit before returning to the conviction. The video was screened on March 21 at the posh and historical Carcosa Seri Negara Hotel by the Datuk T for several invited editors and journalists in a room booked under the name of former Malacca chief minister Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik, who is also Risda chairperson.

datuk t charged 240611 rahim thamby chik Rahim is part of the Datuk T trio that also comprised businessperson Shazryl Eskay Abdullah and former MP Shuib Lazim - all three later claimed responsibility for the event. The three protagonists had called on Anwar to resign.

This led to Anwar issuing a statement on the same day, March 21, denying that he was the man in the video and lodged a police report the next day.

As a result, the trio was called in and it was during this time Eskay said he had handed the only copy of the sex tape to the police.

However, parts of the clip made their way online just before the Sarawak state elections, only to resurface last month, this time in full. It also made its way to the homes of village headmen and politicians via post.

NONE After a period of silence, Eskay took a religious oath at a Sentul mosque - complete with bullet-proof vest - to swear that Anwar was the man in the video.

He repeated himself yesterday when the facts of the case were being read out in court, telling the court that the man in the video who resembles Anwar, was indeed the politician.

Subsequently the trio pleaded guilty to be fined a total of RM5,500.

Discrepancy before yesterday

When Eskay told reporters on Wednesday that he would be charged on Friday, several parliament reporters claimed that they spotted Rahim apparently meeting Prime Minister Najib Razak in the august House.

While Najib denied the meeting took place, Anwar maintains it did indeed happen, suggesting that it would probably lead to the charge being reduced, thus adding muscle to his assertion of a political conspiracy.

The trio - Eskay, Rahim and Shuib - were the main actors along with DPPs Kamaludin Md Said and Mohd Hanafiah Zakaria and respected lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as well as two other defence lawyers.

Another bombshell dropped before the Datuk T trio were charged was when Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia published a story yesterday quoting Eskay as saying he was ready for any outcome with the article aptly titled 'Kami sedia apa saja hukuman' (We are prepared to face any punishment).

So Utusan had a scoop, probably because they knew the high possibility of all three preparing to plead guilty.

The same report stated that the trio would be charged under Section 5 of the Film Censorship Act, for circulating, exhibiting, distributing and displaying an obscene film, which is punishable by a fine of not less than RM10,000 and not more than RM50,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

Utusan however got that charge wrong when prosecution filed a lesser charge against Datuk T. Anwar pounced on this to back his political conspiracy accusation.

Proceedings in court

Before the arrival of the accused, reporters somehow knew in advance that the case would be heard at magistrate's court three and rushed up there.

Normally, a case would have to be registered first, only then will the courtroom be known. That is the normal procedure any lawyer will tell you to ensure that there is no fixing of judge or magistrate.

It could not be determined if the case had been registered first when the counter opened at 8am and that Eskay and co were told to arrive at that time, but they instead presented themselves sometime around 9.15am in court.

According to reporters covering the trial, two widescreen televisions were already placed in court as a possible prelude to the video being screened.

datuk t charged 240611 outside court after trial 02 Some lawyers who were not watching the case but were in the massive court complex were heard murmuring that the protests outside the court in support of Datuk T and the charging were merely a sideshow - a show which has entranced and held the whole nation captive as the three-and-a-half hour proceedings rolled on.

Another point of oddity was when the charge was read out under section 292 of the Penal Code, all three had asked for a break to consult their counsel, as this was "a new charge".

When the case was recalled, they pleaded guilty and suprisingly, the facts of case had already been conveniently prepared.

The normal proceedings in such cases in a magistrate's court is that when a person pleads guilty, the prosecutors would seek more time - usually a few hours or in the afternoon and sometimes the next day to prepare the statement.

azlan However, in this case, after a 45-minute interval, the charge was read again and all three entered their plea with the statement of facts ready to be read out in court.

The five-page fact sheet appeared to have been carefully crafted to implicate Anwar in the video as his name was mentioned at least five times right from the first paragraph.

Then came the real jolt when Shafee and not the prosecution told the magistrate that according to case laws, many such cases had been thrown out on appeal because the obscene material had not been screened.

He then applied for the 20-minute sex-clip to be shown in court. The prosecution and other defence counsel raised no objections.

The tape then appeared on the two big screens, which had been been placed there earlier.

Then Shafee began his lengthy submission in mitigation, representing the third defendant, Rahim.

He stated that the revelation of video was made in the defence of the public good and his client's role was merely booking the hotel room. The other two counsel then delivered their submissions.

Merely coincidences or conspiracy

Putting together all the incidents, what is a sane person to assume - that they were merely coincidences or a meticulously crafted consipiracy as claimed by Anwar?

This despite the foreign expert findings that the person performing the sex act resembled the opposition leader.

The tape was shot before the crucial Sarawak election and the other point is that Anwar, who is facing an ongoing sodomy trial at that time, had successful block the admission of three crucial evidence retrieved in the police lock-up - the toothbrush, the mineral water bottle and white towel.

The other point not mentioned earlier is that Eskay himself was embroiled in a legal battle involving a RM20 million suit he filed against Merong Mahawangsa Sdn Bhd and one of its directors, over the construction of the Johor Baru crooked bridge. The High Court ruled against him.

It is strange that the sex tape investigations took three months as according to a retired senior police officer, in such cases the person caught would be charged within a week. The clip was also widely distributed after Eskay had handed what he claimed as the only copy to the police.

Were hidden hands at work when what was reportedly a charge under the Film Censorship Act as was highlighted in Utusan was reduced to a lesser offence under the Penal Code?

Is it a coincidence that big screen televisions were placed in court before the start of proceedings and the facts of case conveniently prepared.

As the facts present themselves, the readers can decide whether something rotten really happened at the Duta Court yesterday.

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