KUALA LUMPUR — January 9, 2020: The controversial audio recordings which were publicised by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) yesterday has swiftly led to an objectionable blowback.
Critics are firm in saying it was wrong for MACC chief Latheefa Bebi Koya to make public the telephone conversations by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak with several individuals.
DAP national legal bureau chairman Ramkarpal Singh, who is a lawyer, holds the expose to be unconstitutional as it undermines a person’s right to privacy.
His contention is that the recordings should instead be presented in court as evidence for consideration.
“This can amount to a trial by media of those implicated. If such a trend were to continue, we will soon see alleged criminals being found guilty in a press conference and not a court of law.”
Latheefa had yesterday maintained the audio clips were authentic, as the agency had authenticated them through forensics. She accused Najib and his wife Datuk Seri Rosmah Mansor along with several others of committing a subversion of justice.
There were also those who found it odd for Latheefa to declare the recordings as authentic given how she said that the MACC will refer the audio clips and lodge a report with the police as the offences allegedly committed by Najib and others fall under the Penal Code instead of the MACC Act.
“Usually the enforcement agency that receives the report will be the one to authenticate the veracity of a particular evidence,” said former national police chief Tan Sri Musa Hassan to The Mole today.
Musa said Latheefa’s action was prejudicial — although the latter insisted that it was not– as the evidence should only be presented in court, given how the 1MDB trial connected in a way to the recordings is ongoing.
“It [the audio clips] is meant for the court and therefore it should only be produced there,” he said.
Senior lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla is on the same page with Musa, adding that Latheefa’s move could jeopardise the 1MDB-related trials.
In a strongly worded statement, Haniff, who was a lawyer for Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, accused the graft-busting agency of subverting the rule of law.
““The move to reveal the contents of the nine recordings to the public has subverted the rule of law, something that should not be done by any law enforcement agency like the MACC. Crimes and wrongdoing should not be brought to justice or punished by going behind the principle of the rule of law,” he remarked.
While Latheefa claimed that she decided to do so as the matter was of public interest and involved serious national security issues, lawyer Fatihah Jamhari argued otherwise, saying that what Latheefa had done was subjudice.
“Any matters that are still under trial cannot be taken out of court regardless how big of a public interest it is. Every criminal case is of public interest but can they all simply be simultaneously tried in the media?” asked Fatihah.
And in the case of the 1MDB trial, Fatihah pointed out that the judges had already invoked a subjudice rule by ordering Najib to not publish the details of his trial on his social media accounts.
“Now they want to ignore subjudice…. what double standards.”
As it is, even netizens who are known to dislike Najib deem Latheefa’s decision as improper.
“Her move was efficient in destroying Najib but it wasn’t according to the rule of law. I hate Najib but I am not blind,” wrote a forum member, ifourtos, at LowYatt.net.
“The release of the wiretap conversation itself doesn’t achieve much. Most think Najib is guilty anyway. So it is puzzling why Latheefa decided to do this. It’s like taking an unnecessary risk,” another forum member, empyreal, chimed in.
Intercepting and recording private conversations was legalised in 2012 after the then Najib administration amended the Criminal Procedure Code.