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Najib Razak to stop political prosecution against opposition figures

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SHAH ALAM – PKR strategy chief Rafizi Ramli sought today the dismissal of charges against him under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA), claiming the prosecution was abusing its power to gag him from further exposés on the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal.
Defence lawyer N. Surendran informed a Sessions Court here when Rafizi’s case was called for mention that the application was filed at the High Court registry this morning.

“The application to quash the charges states that they are an abuse of process, selective prosecution and are against public policy.

“In view of that, we seek the court’s indulgence to fix a mention date pending the disposal of this application,” he said.

Sessions Court judge Aslan Zainuddin then set October 10 for mention.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom later, Surendran said the application to quash Rafizi’s charges contained an accusation that the prosecution was using the case for the benefit of its political masters, “which is Umno”.

Rafizi said the opposition is not going to take “political prosecution” lying down.
He added that it was against public policy to punish whistleblowers like Rafizi, pointing out that the latter was merely exposing the mismanagement of taxpayers’ monies in the NFC scandal.
“The law does not allow it; it is against public policy to charge a person for doing something good. It is not for public benefit to charge Rafizi for exposing wrongdoing.

“In general, we are saying that these charges are politically motivated,” he continued.

Surendran said the defence wants the judiciary to step in and state that it would no longer tolerate any attempt by any party to use the legal system for its own political benefit.

“This is also to urge (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak) to stop political prosecution against opposition figures by using the legal process,” he said.

Rafizi said today’s application was also to show the authorities that the opposition will not take the matter lying down.

He added that this will be a test case for the integrity of Malaysia’s legal system, saying that a rejection of his application would give the impression that the country’s laws could be used to punish those who dared to expose government wrongdoing.

“It is not just about the trial itself, it is also the principle behind the administration of justice whereby the public needs assurance that those who come forward will not be punished for doing so.

“It was therefore imperative for us to go to the High Court to apply for the quashing of these charges,” he said.

Rafizi was charged on August 1 with violating the BAFIA by exposing confidential banking details of National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp), in a case that is expected to put whistleblower protection laws under greater scrutiny.

The NFCorp runs the NFC, a RM250 million federal-funded cattle farming project that has been at the centre of a major national scandal.

The charge proffered under Section 97(1) of the BAFIA stated that Rafizi had disclosed four customer account profiles detailing the balance summary for the National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp), the National Meat and Livestock Sdn Bhd, Agroscience and Industries Sdn Bhd and NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail, to two individuals identified as Yusuf Abdul Alim and Erle Martin Carvalho.

Under Section 103(1)(a) of the same law, he may be fined a maximum of RM3 million and jailed up to three years if found guilty, which could seriously hobble Rafizi’s chance of standing as a candidate in the 13th general election that must be held by April next year when the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s mandate expires.

Former Public Bank clerk Johari Mohamad was also charged on August 1 with abetting Rafizi in disclosing the account profiles for the same four customers, under Section 112(1)(a) of the BAFIA, read together with Section 91(1) of the same law that deals with confidential banking information.

He faces the same sentence as Rafizi if convicted.

Both Rafizi and Johari had pleaded not guilty when the charges were read out at the Sessions Court here.

Bail had then been set at RM15,000 each, with Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who is also PKR communications director, as bailor. – TMI