Civil society must pressure Putrajaya to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project, following the acquittal of two former ministers of cheating, a lawyers’ group said today.
Lawyers for Liberty adviser Eric Paulsen said a respectable panel would be able to shed light on who were responsible for the ballooning cost of the project.
"In such inquiry, third parties can assist the inquiry to make an evaluation and recommendation to the government to act against those responsible," he told The Malaysian Insider today.
He said police could probe further for the public prosecutor to file possible criminal charges.
Paulsen cited the case of the 2007 inquiry into the fixing of judicial appointments, where the report had implicated several personalities and recommended possible penal actions to be taken against them.
That inquiry, in its report, had said that there was sufficient cause to invoke the Prevention of Corruption Act 1961, the Sedition Act 1961, the Legal Profession Act 1976, the Official Secrets Act 1972 and the Penal Code against Tun Dr Mahathir, Mohamad, lawyer V K Lingam, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan and former chief justices Tun Mohd Eusoff Chin and Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim.
Paulsen said civil society must push for greater accountability from the Barisan Nasional government as taxpayers’ money was involved.
He said this in response to a call by veteran opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang for an inquiry after Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik and Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy were cleared of cheating charges in connection with the PKFZ project.
In calling for support from both his opposition colleagues and the ruling BN bloc to push for an inquiry when Parliament convenes on March 10, Lim said this was needed to avoid Malaysia becoming an international laughing stock.
On Monday Chan Kong Choy was acquitted of three counts of cheating former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in connection with the PKFZ project.
DPP Datuk Nordin Hassan had told The Malaysian Insider that the charges were dropped after public prosecutor had re-evaluated Chan's case and considered the representation by lawyers of the accused.
Chan's lead counsel Datuk Tan Hock Chuan had said the prosecution also decided against going through a trial after studying the October 25 acquittal of Dr Ling for allegedly cheating the Cabinet.
Paulsen said in other countries the public prosecutor would have been accountable to Parliament.
"In this country he need not offer an explanation as to why he used his discretion to withdraw charges against Chan," he said.
Paulsen said an inquiry was necessary because public confidence in the Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who is also the public prosecutor, had dipped to a new low.
“For such a large amount of money to be embezzled, many people must have been involved and the public prosecutor should have gone for all instead of putting a sham trial," he said.
He added that this botched-up prosecution again showed that politicians from the ruling party had "immunity" from justice.
On October 25, Dr Ling was acquitted of deceiving the cabinet by failing to disclose an additional interest rate of 7.5% to the purchase price of RM25psf in the PKFZ deal, despite knowing that the interest rate was already included in the price.
Chan was charged on February 28, 2011 with cheating Abdullah over the RM1.9 billion trans-shipment project between 2004 and 2006.
The project was initially tagged at RM1.1 billion after it was mooted by Dr Ling in 1997, but more than quadrupled to RM4.6 billion by 2007. – January 17, 2014.