KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — Perak Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders cried foul today over the award of a lucrative RM2.2 billion highway contract to companies linked to former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi and Umno lawyer Datuk Hafarizam Harun, two key figures in the Perak constitutional crisis of 2009.
They demanded both men and the Najib administration explain the award and yesterday’s allegation by controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin that the deal was Barisan Nasional’s (BN) gift for their help in toppling PR in the northern state.
“(Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib Razak and the Works Ministry must come out to refute this allegation with proof that they carried out an open tender process and the award was based on the firms’ proper qualifications, track record and expertise in the field.
“As an MP and the former mentri besar of Perak, I demand an explanation from the authorities... failing which, this allegation would hold true,” PAS’s Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin told The Malaysian Insider.
Nizar, who once led the Perak PR government, said the allegation was unsurprising as both men had been central figures during the year-long constitutional impasse that saw an endless series of legal suits mounted.
As an example, the Bukit Gantang MP said Hafarizam had even joined an Umno delegation to several Middle Eastern countries like Jordan, Syria and Egypt in a bid to justify the ruling party’s power grab on the point of law to Malaysian students there.
Nizar’s former colleague in the Perak PR government, Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham, shared his sentiment.
The Perak DAP chief charged that both Hafarizam and Zaki had already “compromised their principles” by allowing their political affiliations to interfere with their duties in the legal profession.
“With or without this allegation, these two have already soiled their careers,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
The Beruas MP, who once held the post of senior state executive councillor in the Perak PR government, pointed out that Zaki was once Umno’s disciplinary board chairman and has appeared numerous times for Umno cases.
“Such persons should never be a judge, let alone the country’s Chief Justice. He is obviously biased. Obviously, his appointment was political,” he said.
Ngeh also raised a complaint against Hafarizam, whom he alleged had once warned all government-linked companies and state agencies against engaging DAP’s team of lawyers for any legal matter.
He claimed the prominent lawyer had done so openly and even through the media, clearly indicating that the latter had lost his “sense of professionalism”.
“He (Hafarizam) tried to instil fear in the legal profession whereby under the Act, we are supposed to act without fear or favour and uphold justice,” said Ngeh.
In a blog posting yesterday, Raja Petra alleged that the Najib administration have awarded the contract for the construction of the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex) to Emrail Sdn Bhd And Zabima Engineering Sdn Bhd as a reward to the two men for their role in the infamous Perak power grab of 2009.
Hafarizam is a director in both firms while Zaki’s wife, Toh Puan Nik Sazlina Mohd Zain, is a director in Emrail.
Hafarizam confirmed the award today but said that any suggestion of a deal struck because of his role in the Perak constitutional crisis in 2009 was “tainted with mala fide (bad faith) and intended to bring me and Tun Zaki into public odium, scandal and disrepute.”
“This is a serious allegation. The prime minister must respond to it because it not only concerns the question of transparency and accountability in public works projects but also the independence of judiciary.
“Whether or not it is true, whether there is substance to this claim, there should be a full response from the prime minister,” DAP’s Ipoh Timor MP Lim Kit Siang told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.
“Both the government and the named persons should explain the allegation. Why was the project awarded to their company if not for the Perak case?
“Their involvement in the case and ‘reward’ look very fishy,” said Perak PKR vice-chairman Chang Lih Kang.
The Edge Financial Daily had reported on February 17 that the government had called a tender for the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex).
The announcement mentioned that seven companies are bidding for the job, which includes Bina Puri, Mudajaya, and Pesona Metro Sdn Bhd.
“The tenders are just out and it is not certain yet on the tenure of the concession as the CA has not been finalised,” said a source.
The highway will link Kinrara and Pusat Bandar Damansara and will divert traffic on the LDP.
According to The Edge, the concession was suppose to be awarded to PLUS Expressways but Pesona Metro Sdn Bhd has been tipped as a frontrunner for the project.