KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 — Singapore is meddling with Malaysia’s affairs by letting a French lawyer brief Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers in the island state over the Scorpene court case, Umno’s Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said today — weighing in on the controversial issue the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) claims is being used to rally anti-government sentiment ahead of key polls due soon.
A French lawyer hired by local rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) had earlier today briefed several opposition MPs in Singapore after Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia barred Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from bringing his invited foreign guest for a meeting at the Briefing Room in Parliament Building.
During the briefing the lawyer said she hoped to call as witnesses Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his former aide Abdul Razak Baginda — who was acquitted in 2008 of an abetment charge in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu whom the opposition has attempted to link to the Scorpene.
“This clearly shows Singapore is interfering in our country’s affairs,” Mohd Ali, the former Umno vice-president told The Malaysian Insider today.
“Such an act is not democratic and does not symbolise reliable neighbourliness, Mohd Ali said, adding that it lent credence to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks that Malaysia does not have good neighbours as the countries in the region “like to interfere in our country’s affairs”.
The Malacca chief minister also slammed the opposition for raising a stink over the ban, describing the PR lawmakers as “desperadoes” who were betraying their own country for political mileage.
“The opposition’s actions are the actions of desperadoes who are bereft of capital and feel they are increasingly rejected by Malaysians who love the country,” he said, adding that even if they were dissatisfied with BN controlling Putrajaya, “surely we won’t go abroad and pronounce a sentence against our own country?”
Mohd Ali’s strong remarks against Singapore and the opposition also found favour with some Umno leaders interviewed at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here ahead of their party assembly tonight.
“There’s nothing very much going on in France, despite what the opposition says. That is why their effort to bring these two Scorpene lawyers to Parliament failed and they are now trying to hold their briefing at our neighbour’s backyard,” said Lenggong MP Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah.
“I hope Singapore will not involve itself in this and create a polemic between the two nations,” he added.
Unlike Mohd Ali though, Shamsul said he was confident the effort would fail as Singapore is likely keen to maintain its currently warm ties with Malaysia.
But Selangor Umno veteran, Datuk Seri Noh Omar, said he did not see the Scorpene meeting as signalling Singapore’s interference with Malaysia’s sovereignty.
“I feel this Scorpene meeting has nothing to do with Singapore’s administration... The opposition only wants to give a picture that a meeting outside the country is safer,” he said.
“The opposition loves more to hear what outsiders say than their own state,” he said.
The agriculture and agro-based industry minister said the opposition were only using the submarine issue as a gimmick to paint a negative picture of Southeast Asia’s third largest economy, as if there’s no democracy and “Malaysia is not safe-lah”.
“I feel if they are in power tomorrow, ISA will be resurrected,” the Selangor Umno chief, referring to the controversial Internal Security Act that was repealed earlier this year and which had been widely panned as a government tool to suppress political dissent.
Temerloh MP Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who is seen to be the voice of moderation in Umno, shared Noh’s view but questioned the opposition’s motive in kicking up a fuss about being barred from holding the briefing in Parliament.
“The Speaker’s action refusing permission is regular and we should respect his decision. But if there was a briefing, why a neighbouring country?” he asked.
“More fitting to have in anywhere else in the country,” the deputy minister for higher education said.
The junior politician said the answer that had been supplied previously by the ministry of defence in the Dewan Rakyat had comprehensively covered the questions surrounding the controversy.
“I do not forbid to raise this issue, that’s anyone’s right but if too earnest raising issues that have already been answered in the Dewan, we ask is there any other intent behind their seeming earnestness?” he questioned.
Suaram has been instrumental in the French probe on Malaysia’s multibillion ringgit purchase of two Scorpene submarines, a high-profile scandal that many believe will unearth incriminating evidence against top government officials here.
The human rights watchdog has been actively pursuing the Scorpene scandal in the French courts, determined to expose the government of alleged corruption in the purchase multibillion submarines in 2009 and possibly reopen the murder case of Mongolian model Altantuyaa Shaariibuu, which is said to be linked to the deal.
In April this year, the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Paris began its inquiry into Suaram’s claim that the French naval firm DCNS had paid some RM452 million as a bribe to Malaysian officials to obtain a contract for two submarines. Suaram had filed the complaint with the French courts in 2009.
At a May 30 press conference in Bangkok, Suaram’s French lawyer Joseph Breham had revealed that a highly-document government document on the Malaysian navy’s evaluation of the Scorpene submarines it planned to buy was sold by Terasasi (Hong Kong) Ltd to DCNS for RM142 million.
Abdul Razak Baginda, a former think-tank head who was at the centre of the 2006 investigation into Altantuya’s murder, is listed as a director of Terasasi with his father, Abdul Malim Baginda. Abdul Razak is said to be a close associate to Najib.
“It was a secret document by the Malaysian navy, an evaluation for the order of the submarines, which is a highly confidential report,” Breham had said at the conference then.