(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The time has come to end the charade of the de factor Law Minister, the Attorney-General and the Police giving three conflicting versions on the government position on the controversial granting of bail to a prime suspect in the Seremban murder case, showing a disgraceful spectacle of government deeply divided into warring “Three Kingdoms”.
On Monday, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim announced that the Attorney-General’s Chambers will set up an inquiry team to investigate into the circumstances of a police case in Seremban in which a prime murder suspect was allowed bail when such cases are non-bailable offences.
He said the inquiry team, which will be selected by the Attorney-General and will comprise representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, public legal sector and the police, will begin its work at the end of the 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 AG’s chambers.
He said the findings of the inquiry would be made public.
The next day, Tuesday, there was no more mention of any inquiry by the Attorney-General’s chambers into the controversial circumstances where a prime murder suspect was allowed bail.
Instead, there was the announcement from the Attorney-General’s Chambers that the Attorney-General, Datuk Ainum Mohd Saad in her capacity as Public Prosecutor had ordered an inquest to be held into Seow’s 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-General’s 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.
What the Attorney-General’s Chambers announced is a different kettle of fish from what Rais had announced - the former about inquiry into the cause of death the latter about the circumstances where bail was allowed!
What was most extraordinary was that Rais seemed to have accepted such a volte-face, backing 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: “Let the matter rest there. The Public Prosecutor, who is also the Attorney-General, will inform the government about the case from time to time.”
The third day, Wednesday, saw a third warring version when the Negri Sembilan police chief, Datuk Amiruddin Embi said the 42-year-old businessman murder suspect was released on RM100,000 police bail with two sureties on the instructions of the Attorney-General's chambers.
Amiruddin denied any preferential treatment to the businessman, declaring that “from the start (of the case) till now”, the police had acted under the instructions of the Attorney-General’s Chambers as under the police bail procedures, only the AG’s Chambers had the powers to decide whether a person could be granted police bail or not.
He refuted reports that the investigation officer in the case would be under probe for allegedly giving “special treatment” to the suspect, declaring: “As far as we are concerned, there is no probe against the officer. Neither were we given a directive to change the current investigation team.”
If Amiruddin is right, then it is the Attorney-General’s Chambers which must be the object of investigation in the controversial granting of bail and not the police, which makes it all the imperative that such an inquiry should not involve either the Attorney-General’s Chambers or the police and be open and public.
However, Rais had also returned to the fray, declaring that as far as he was concerned, the inquiry into the police handling of the controversial case in allowing bail for the prime murder suspect had started, although nobody could enlighten the public as to whether an inquiry team had been set up to investigate 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 AG’s chambers” and who comprise the inquiry.
This “Three Kingdom” farce is splattering mud on the face of Rais, the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Police, and nobody is coming out of it with any dignity or credibility.
The government must give a simple and coherent answer to the very simple question - Is there an inquiry into the circumstances of the granting of the police bail to the murder suspect as announced by Rais which is different and separate from the inquest directed by the Public Prosecutor under section 339 of the Criminal Procedure Code to inquire into the cause of death, and if so, who are the members of the inquiry and its terms of reference.
The credibility of Rais, Ainum and the Police are hanging by a very thin thread if they continue to give incoherent and gibberish answers to such a simple question.