Clash at the stage

By KAREN VELIE, Reporter

KUALA LUMPUR: A senior British lawyer charged over an allegedly illegal campaign speech at an Islamic student festival in Malaysia said on Wednesday the law forbids lawmakers from intruding into the role of a political officer.

Lawyer Zakaria Alam also criticized Article 50 which strips lawmakers of their parliamentary responsibilities.

“(In cases of violence) I believe the law prohibits the elected members of parliament from going beyond their political duty,” Zakaria told a press conference on Tuesday.

“Should members of parliament go outside the duty of their offices?”

Zakaria went on to question the decision of the Malaysian attorney-general to appoint Sirul Azhar Umar, a former firebrand preacher, as deputy attorney-general on Sept. 13.

“I don’t know how Sirul Azhar will act if his appointment is announced on Thursday and I don’t trust the Attorney-General. He’s completely inexperienced on matters relating to law,” Zakaria said.

“I call on the two most senior political offices – the prime minister and the deputy attorney-general – to remain at least as neutral as Sirul Azhar. If they continue with his appointment then they are colluding in a witch-hunt.”

The charge sheet for Zakaria said he made an incendiary speech on Sept 6 in which he called for Muslims in Malaysia to boycott a Muslim festival that was being organised.

A visibly angered Zakaria said he was upset that Sirul Azhar had been appointed not as the attorney-general, but as deputy to charge minister Abdul Rahim Mustapa.

“Sirul Azhar cannot become a deputy prosecutor and charge minister at the same time. It’s absurd,” he said.

“The deputy attorney-general has the authority to appoint the charged minister in relation to acts of violence. They can assign the defence to them.”

The lawyer said Sirul Azhar has been hired to investigate whether the event was staged or unauthorized and have the process reviewed by prosecutors and a judge.

The attorney-general’s office declined to comment.

Sirul Azhar was placed under a police preventive detention order in January after a court hearing. The order was later cancelled.

Earlier, police released a list of those being questioned in the case and named former United Nations human rights commissioner Navi Pillay, 49, for questioning.

Pillay was announced as chairman of the Malaysia Human Rights Commission in July, a position she will continue to hold until it is renamed when her term ends at the end of December.

“The police have to release all of the people and that includes me,” Zakaria said.