Monday, March 21, 2011

Tan Sri Robert Phang Goes Round and Round Again

At Killiney Kopitiam on the evening of Thursday 17 March, 2011, barely two days away from the UNSC-endorsed military intervention in Libya the world knows as “no fly zone”, about 50 persons listened to the good Tan Sri Robert Phang, the contrast to the bad guy Attorney-General (AG), Gani Patail, in the sock-it-to-me fight over Tajuddin Ramli’s Mas-Kebab swop.

Tajuddin, Executive Chairman of the Malaysian Flag-Carrier, Mas, from 1994 to 2001, was said to have caused the company to lose about RM 8 billion. Though said to have been recommended to be charged in court by the former head of the Commercial Crime Division, the AG hasn’t acted on it yet.

As this saga began to unfold its new chapter in 2009 when well-known blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, ran a series of 10 installments on the Tajuddin’s Mas story, few would have expected the recount of Tajuddin’s embarrassment would light a fire that combusted in the MACC, causing two advisors to burn.

That was the subject of a “Kopitiam Discussion” my old friend, Baha Zain, organized through his outfit, Malaysian Digest, at Killiney Kopitiam on Thursday, a topic few Malaysians followed because of the bad journalism it drew, the bulk of writings on it showing the writers’ emotions and flaunting the what, when, where, who and why that are basic to reporting.

Raja Petra and a few others are exceptions, the former better described as exceptionally gifted.

The discussion at the Kopitiam was not a curtain-raiser. It served instead as a discussion with Tan Sri Robert Phang, and enabling us to see the woods from the trees pertaining to the new chapter of the Tajuddin Saga the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) would want us to believe was intimately interwoven with the selective prosecution of the senior police officer who had recommended that Tajuddin be charged.

Ours is a troubled environment. Trouble has been brewing all over the Muslim world, the new sets in the Mena countries stemming from complaints about police states, dysfunctional institutions, ethnic, religious and gender discriminations, income inequalities and rising prices of food and essential items, all of which are residing in this country too.

Closer to home, in Indonesia, where Muslim extremism has been clobbering the Ahmadiyya and Christian minorities over and over again, someone sent parcel bombs to “moderate Muslims” several days before, taking the country into Takfirism which may lead her into the kind of purgatory Pakistan has become.

There the moderate Muslim Governor of Punjab and a Christian Minister had been killed.

It is turmoil.

The Killiney Kopitiam session with Robert Phang on Thursday, which was somewhat of a jumble because of the varying foci, should have been finally about these – the rotting images of our institutions, beginning with the Police Force which we have been given to believe is divided into factions and a part of which is corrupt or is corruptible.

Then the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been soured by the death of political assistant, Teoh Beng Hock, in its custody.

Several big fishes the Commission charged failed to be secured by a guilty verdict in court. That brings us to the disappointment with the Attorney-General (AG), Gani Patail.

The AG, Gani Patail, and the former Inspector-General (IGP), Musa Hassan, were implicated in Anwar Ibrahim’s Black Eye Incident in 1998 by the testimony of a senior police officer.

This rounds up why Anwar’s outfit wants the AG and the former IGP dissolved in vitriol, but says nothing about why the MCA big shot, Robert Phang, would want to ride on the fame and flames Raja Petra stands for, first in the making of the Free Anwar Campaign and now in gunning for the people who were believed to have conspired to reduce Anwar to political ashes.

Robert Phang, a big operator in the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and an advisor to the MACC, walked straight into the amazing swirl of terribly sensitive political events the Anwar outfit had been conjuring, causing a question mark to arise like a zombie in Haiti.

He is a social activist. He continued to crusade until after he had resigned in a huff in January 2011 following a blog accusation he had tried to corrupt a high government official involving a business deal.

He is a big man, a rag-to-riches story that may have once been the president of Magnum and is still the publisher of The Star.

Why did such a big guy take issue against the AG following the writings of the blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin? Is he in the outgoing camp in MCA? Or is it about putting the pressure on the government for action to be taken?

Gani, having gone to Mecca for the Hajj last year with Shahidan Shafie, allegedly Tajuddin Ramli’s proxy, was suspected to have become obliged to the businessman who was once a police officer.

But Robert Phang should have been well-disposed to know Raja Petra and his friends in the blog merely suggested Shahidan must have paid for the trip involving Gani and his family.

They had no supporting evidence.

They were again guessing when saying Shahidan had meant to persuade Gani not to prosecute Tajuddin Ramli.

But while Gani Patail had obviously attracted suspicion for the pilgrimage with Shahidan and family, he quickly reacted to a call from the MACC and attended a tell-all meeting on 4 January.

He submitted the receipts collected in his Mecca trip to show he paid for his family from his own pocket.

More than a decade ago the then Chief Justice, Eusoff Chin, had gotten into a crap for his family tour of New Zealand together with Berjaya Corporation lawyer, V.K. Lingam.

It was clear the events were good meat for the PKR spinners and if Phang chose to stay his ground he would be drawing the kind of flak Muammar Gadhafi would not want to think about in Libya.

But he did just that. No matter the fact that Gani Patail had submitted evidences to show he was clean concerning the trip to Mecca, and said he was willing to cooperate should he be investigated, Robert Phang and one other of the attendees were apparently not satisfied.

Chairman of the MACC Corruption Prevention Panel, Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, issued a statement to the effect that the MACC members who attended this meeting were satisfied with Abdul Gani’s explanation.

There were 30 attendees of 42 invited. As far as this writer is aware, only two persons, i.e. Robert and one other, had protested the statement Ramon made on 4 January after the meeting.

The statement came close to exonerating Gani. Ramon said there was no need to investigate the allegations of Abdul Gani’s connection with former MAS Chairman, Tan Sri Tajuddin’s proxy, En Shahidan Shafie.

Robert Phang blew his top.

But was Ramon’s statement conclusive? Did Ramon carry such weight as to enable him to open or close an MACC enquiry?

Robert Phang was a member of the MACC panel Ramon chaired. He should know the limits of Ramon’s power. Still he acted quickly to reply on 5 January. His statement is given in full below.

I regret Ramon’s statement that - “ MACC members were satisfied
with Abdul Gani’s explanation and found that there was no need to investigate
the allegations”. I also resent Tan Sri Ramon’s statement that - “We found that
there was no case at all to accuse him of being linked to Tajuddin just because
of this Haj trip. It was irresponsible to allege that he was in any way linked.”

I consider Ramon’s statement to be a direct attack on me as I had
earlier called on Abdul Gani to clear the air over public allegations of his
relationship with Shahidan and the Mecca Haj pilgrimage. I was concerned that
Abdul Gani’s silence would fuel deeper suspicions and confusion
. (Italics mine)

Ramon can speak for himself but he has no mandate from me or the
other panel members to make that statement on our behalf. That was not how I
perceived the meeting. What was certain was that my esteemed colleagues who
attended the meeting did not want to humiliate Abdul Gani any further. It was
not our intention to humble the Top Lawyer of the country.

It is therefore imperative for Abdul Gani to dispel any suspicion
surrounding his conduct of consorting with Shahidan Shafie and [sic] the Mecca Haj
pilgrimage. The public needs to be satisfied as to why Abdul Gani had not acted
on the recommendations of the then Director of Commercial Crimes Department,
Dato’ Ramli Yusuff, that Tajudin should be prosecuted. Inevitable [sic] the public
already perceived that the AG’s decision to prosecute Dato’ Ramli as an attempt
to cover up the MAS scandal
. (italics mine)

Robert Phang invited the fires of hell to be flung at him. It was Raja Petra and several others in Anwar’s outfit who “ …perceived that the AG’s decision to prosecute Dato’ Ramli as an attempt to cover up the MAS scandal,’ but certainly not “the public”.

A friend had earlier asked what could be the connection between Raja Petra and Robert Phang, which he described as “confusing”. That was a member of the MCA.

In the corridors of the BN the episodes were viewed somewhat more seriously.

Phang was alleged in a blog to have tried to bribe a senior government official. The allegation was followed by another blog saying he had donated RM50,000 to the MCA’s nemesis, the DAP, which has been the choice of about 80 percent of Chinese voters in the general elections of 8 March 2008.

At Killiney Kopitiam on Thursday he was not asked for the basis of his allegation that the Director of the (Police) Commercial Crimes Department, Dato’ Ramli Yusuff, had indeed been prosecuted for recommending Tajuddin to be charged in court.

What was Robert Phang repeating the allegation for? Even if Ramli Yusuff had come clean in court, no evidence was offered to prove he had been a victim of selective prosecution.

To members of the BN Robert had joined a chorus in the Opposition in a straight and easy jaunt that must embarrass the MCA.

It needs to be asked is he a member of an outgoing faction in the party whose days are numbered under the new president, Chua Soi Lek?

Robert is 69 and he wouldn't be bothered about that.

To people who had followed the development, Robert will appear as having been affected by Raja Petra’s 10 installments on Tajuddin Ramli’s Mas episode in Malaysia Today posted in 2009, and he recalled it also following Raja Petra’s expose on the Gani Patail-Shahidan Shafie Hajj trip at the end of 2010.

Robert Phang has become a curiosity. Why is he doing this when it is already a glaring fact that the PKR and the Pas have lost credibility and are deemed popularly as no longer fit to lead.

While PKR suffered lawmakers who frogged to the BN, both parties have had their share of leadership crises, the PKR now quite emasculated since Syed Husin Ali retired, Sivarasa lost in the party divisional election and many have chosen to fall quiet before the new and untested leadership line-up.

The Pas has also been severely damaged after serially losing in recent bye-elections, meaning Robert Phang isn’t about to go places outside of the spaces marked “Down” or “Out”.

He called Gani Patail a rogue. Robert should have ridden on a moral movement.---a. ghani ismail, 22 March, 2011

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