MAIWP official backs minister, claims zakat use OK if defending Islam
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — The Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) director said today zakat funds may be used by the Islamic affairs minister, himself and another MAIWP official to pay their legal fees as it was to “defend the sovereignty and honour of an Islamic institution.”
Datuk Che Mat Che Ali denied abusing RM63,650 in zakat funds along with Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, as the council commingled both alms money and funds from the government in the same account.
“We can pay for the legal fees to defend the sovereignty, honour, dignity and credibility of MAIWP with zakat,” he said, referring to a statement by Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Wan Zahidi Wan Teh yesterday saying it was in accordance with Islam.
“But we paid with government funds. When the government injects money, whether RM500,000 or RM700,000, it goes into the same account.
“We can’t be opening accounts everywhere because our accounts are audited by the Auditor-General,” said Che Mat, who is director of the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (JAWI).
He explained that given his role as secretary of MAIWP and Jamil Khir’s as MAIWP chairman, it was not wrong to use MAIWP funds to pay for legal fees incurred when Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim named them as respondents in his 2010 qazaf application in the Syariah Court.
Che Mat also said 2011’s increase in zakat collection by 24 per cent to RM431 million from 100,497 contributors (up by 13 per cent) showed Muslims were “confident in us.”
“We are doing our job properly as Allah’s humble servants,” he said.
PKR is lodging a police report against the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Che Mat and MAIWP chief prosecutor Shahsuddin Hussain after revealing to the media documents it says proves the trio abused zakat funds.
PKR communications director Nik Nazmi had distributed yesterday copies of a letter by Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang to PAC chairman Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid dated November 21, 2011, confirming that RM63,650 of zakat funds were used to settle the trio’s legal fees.
In Ambrin’s investigation report attached to the letter, the A-G confirmed that Che Mat had first approved an interim payment of RM31,500 from MAIWP’s “general resource allocation for legal services” on January 28, 2010.
“This payment was approved on February 9, 2010, through voucher No. 2010B01304, to use zakat allocation first as the government grant was yet to be received,” Ambrin wrote in his report.
When denying the allegations on December 31 last year, Jamil Khir had insisted that he had paid his qazaf legal fees through a RM700,000 special fund allocated by Putrajaya and not using zakat funds but made no reference to allegations that the alms money was first used to settle the fees.
PKR has pointed out that Ambrin’s report shows the money was replaced only in December, six months after it was used and trio’s act of advancing money from the zakat fund to settle their personal legal fees violated the Penal Code.