The Altantuyaa Shaariibuu murder case has once again been brought under the spotlight, by Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) of the influential and widely read Malaysia-Today blog.
On Wednesday RPK signed a statutory declaration at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, where he made the … ‘declaration’ (of course) … that Rosmah Mansor, wife of Najib Razak, was at the murder scene of Mongolian national Altantuyaa.
With such a sensational allegation, even Malaysiakini was obligated to report it in its Raja Petra: 'Rosmah at murder scene'.
Malaysiakini told us that RPK ‘declared’: "I have been reliably informed that between about 10pm on October 19, 2006 and early hours of the following day, the night Altantuya Shaariibuu was murdered, three other people were also present at the scene of crime."
RPK in his two-page statutory declaration named the two other individuals as (acting) Colonel Aziz Buyong, who has been described as an explosive expert in C4 , and his wife, Norhayati, who is also said to be Rosmah’s aide de camp.
Hmmm, I wasn't aware that the DPM's wife merits an ADC? Even the Raja Permasuri Agong wouldn't have one but rather a lady-in-waiting (or some term like that).
I don’t need to go into the heart of RPK’s statutory declaration (Stat Dec) as it’s the latest juicy news spreading like wildfire around Malaysia. Instead I want to comment on RPK’s Stat Dec per se.
What actually is a Stat Dec?
It is a legal written statement stating certain facts to the best of the declarant's knowledge or belief. There are legislative provisions governing such declaration.
Under the ACT or law governing Stat Dec, a person who wilfully makes a false statement in a statutory declaration is guilty of an offence and may be fined or jailed, or both.
Well, in Malaysia where the so-called august Bench has already been accused of being ‘less than independent’, what then of the legal sacredness of a mere Stat Dec?
The general public opinion is that if you are in the opposition, and you make a false declaration, you will be persecuted, prosecuted and pounded by the authorities. OTOH, if you are in the ruling party, a la Boleh Land’s system, you can swing away like monkeys, chattering happily.
But let’s look at an Australian case where Downunder they take Stat Dec seriously, so seriously that (on the upside) one can use it to avoid, say, documentary impossibility (like not having/losing a birth or death cert which is required urgently) – the authorities will accept the Stat Dec as document in lieu – whilst on the downside, one gets a severe fine if not a prison term for bullsh*tting.
In 2004, PM John Howard, known for his (rather successful) ‘fortress Australia’ gimmickry, where Australians were regularly brainwashed that only he, his party and policies stood between the evil turbaned bearded brown-skin mullah-ish forces and Australia, his government was involved in the ‘Children Overboard’ affair, also termed sarcastically as Howard’s Truth Overboard.
Now we come to the interesting part which has some relevance to our discussion.
Senator George Brandis of Howard’s Liberal Party and a member of the committee that first investigated the children overboard affair, was accused by Russell Galt, a fellow Liberal Party member, of calling Prime Minister John Howard, a ‘lying rodent’.
Needless to say, (unlike SAPP’s Yong Teck Lee) Senator Brandis emphatically denied making that unmitigated slur on his party leader.
Russell Galt made a Stat Dec (and provided to a TV Channel) that he heard the alleged Brandis' indiscretion when he attended a State pre-selection meeting with the Senator, where the conversation had then turned to the children overboard affair. Galt also named a couple more politicians who were present at that meeting.
He asserted: "I clearly recall that, while referring to their participation in hearings of this Senate committee, Senator Brandis made the following two remarks: 'He is a lying rodent' and 'We've got to go off and cover his arse again on this'. It was clear that these remarks by Senator Brandis unambiguously referred to the Prime Minister, John Howard."
Then Senator Brandis made his own sworn statutory declaration immediately after that, again emphatically denying he made the remarks or anything remotely similar. He declared: "I would not have said those words because it has always been my belief - both publicly expressed and privately held - that the Prime Minister's account of those events is truthful and honest."
So, apart from the alleged ratty description of PM John Howard, who was the lying rodent vis-a-vis the Stat Decs?
Well, it didn’t matter because no one was fined or jailed. But if you read the declarations they were couched in terms like “I recall …” and "I would not have said those words because it has always been my belief …”.
Tap dancing through the tulips.
Other useful dancing phrases would be “To the best of my recollection …”, “I was informed by my staff …”, “According to departmental briefings …”, “At that time, this was the information I was provided with …”, etc.
So, in reality a Stat Dec is not necessarily 100% fire-proof evidence but it certainly carries a powerful sheen of authority, and serves certain purpose, like (as mentioned) substituting for the original but lost documentary evidence such as a lost birth/death certificate.
Let’s examine RPK’s Stat Dec – see copy here as provided by Malaysiakini.
Therein, RPK declared “I have been reliably informed …” four times whilst saying “… I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true …”
In other words he was told by someone, hearsay evidence so to speak.
But of course RPK more importantly also declared: “I have knowledge of who has informed me of this matter plus I have knowledge of the Ruler who has been briefed and is aware of the matter but I have agreed that I shall not reveal this information other than mention that the Prime Minister and his son-in-law have been handed a written report confirming what I have revealed.”
… though he asserted in his Stat Dec he will not reveal who his informer has been nor the Ruler who was privy to the shocking allegation of Rosmah Mansor being at the crime scene to witness the C4 explosives being placed on the corpse of Altantuyaa Shariibuu.
Who told him is now irrelevant as we know that RPK is brave if not anything, thus we may expect him to observe the promised (but seemingly selective) sealed lips. He is a man prepared to go to jail again, though I suspect he must have sensed that the PM or DPM will ignore his taunting Stat Dec to prevent him from expanding on the scandal.
And has he been telling the truth?
I believe so, to the extent as he had enunciated in the Stat Dec, to wit, that he has been reliably ‘informed’ by someone (whom we will never know), and that he wanted to reveal what he personally believed to be 'evidence' to assist the police in the case.
Of course we Malaysians love to and can speculate on the ID of the informer, by a process of intelligent elimination - eg. could it be a Ruler or a police insider? - or by giving our prejudice or conspiracy-theory inclinations full free and unfettered reins - or, could it be Tian Chua … wakakakakaka, KJ ;-) or even the ghost of Altantuyaa?
However, I have to admit I find the idea of the wife of a DPM who would turun padang to supervise or witness the placement of C4 on Altantuyaa's corpse, rather bizarre and, frankly, quite implausible.
But then, I am sure there will be those who believe (or want to believe) that's exactly right up her alley. And indeed, who am I to assert they're wrong to do that?