(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The public controversy over the circumstances of a police case in Seremban in which a prime murder suspect was allowed bail when such cases are non-bailable offences has thickened in plot and mystery in the past 24 hours,after the Minister in the Prime Ministerís Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim had announced that the Attorney-General's Chambers will set up an inquiry team to look into the alleged special treatment accorded by the police to a businessman suspected to have shot dead a shop assistant in Seremban last month.
The suspect, a prominent businessman and son of a tycoon, allegedly shot Seow Nam Keong, 27, a car accessories shop worker, in the neck over a parking dispute in front of a pub in Taman Thivy Jaya, Rasah, on Jan 14.
He was granted police bail of RM100,000 with two sureties at the Magistrate's Court on Jan 27. His bail was twice extended for seven days each.
On Monday, Rais said that the inquiry team, which will be selected by the Attorney-General and will comprise representatives from the Attorney-Generalís Chambers, public legal sector and the police, will begin its work at the end of this week into the circumstances of the granting of the bail, the procedures taken by the police when handling the case, exactly who had approved the bail, why the bail was granted, and the decision-making process in the AGís chambers. (The Sun, Nanyang Online and Malaysiakini).
Todayís press however has given a completely different picture, with no more mention of any inquiry by the Attorney-Generalís chambers into the controversial circumstances where a prime murder suspect was allowed bail.
Instead, there was the announcement from the Attorney-Generalís Chambers that the Attorney-General, Datuk Ainum Mohd Saad in her capacity as Public Prosecutor had ordered an inquest to be held into Seowís death under section 339 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which empowers the Public Prosecutor to direct a magistrate to hold such inquest into the cause of deaths.
The Attorney-Generalís Chambers spokesman said that the inquest will take the place of the earlier murder investigation and that Ainum had advised the police to change its team investigating the case which has been classified as murder. (Sun and New Straits Times).
There was no more talk of an inquiry into the circumstances of the controversial granting of bail to a prime murder suspect or the evaluation of the procedure of the police investigation, exactly who had approved the bail, why the bail was granted, and the decision-making process in the AGís chambers - and what is most extraordinary is that Rais seems to have accepted such a volte-face when he was the one who had announced the inquiry.
In The Sun today, Rais backed down from his announcement a day earlier about the inquiry into procedures taken by the police when handling the case, including the bail issue, saying: ďLet the matter rest there. The Public Prosecutor, who is also the Attorney-General, will inform the government about the case from time to time.Ē
Had Rais been overruled by the Attorney-General 24 hours after his announcement on the inquiry into the controversial granting of bail to a prime murder suspect or had Rais committed the grave error of announcing an inquiry which had never been agreed by Ainum?
The plot and mystery surrounding the Seremban murder case and the controversial granting of bail have thickened with many questions crying for answer.
On Monday, when the bail for the suspect was extended a third time,
the Negri Sembilan State CID chief ACP Kamarulzaman Itam said the extension
of bail was to facilitate further investigations into the murder case and
that the police received the directive from the AGís Chambers that morning
to extend the bail for another week. This raises the following questions:
Unless satisfactory answers are given to these queries, public confidence in the Attorney-Generalís Chambers would take another grievous blow.
For a start, before another serious erosion of public confidence in the Attorney-Generalís Chambers is set in motion, the government should establish a public inquiry as to how the decision to institute an inquiry into the controversial granting of bail to a murder suspect in Seremban was rescinded within 24 hours.