Written by Wong Choon Mei, Politics Now!
KUALA LUMPUR (Politics Now!) – One of the killers, central in the brutal and cold-blooded murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaaribuu, is pleading to Australians to give him a “second chance” – claiming that he was a scapegoat caught in a savage Malaysian political game.
Yet it’s hard to feel sorry for former-police commando Sirul Azhar Umar, who admits to receiving RM1 million while in Australia from an unnamed source to “shut his mouth”.
And while he was quick to claim he didn’t want to “talk lies here” in Australia, which he also says he loves with “my heart, my soul”, he refused to come clean on the identity of the mastermind behind the ruthless murder – in which he was reported to be the one who shot her twice in the head, perhaps even as she begged for mercy.
“Until now, I have somebody [who] controls me. ‘Umar, you don’t talk. You be silent.’
“Okay. [For] many years, people in my country waiting about who gave the order (to kill Altantuya). But until now, I cannot tell,” Sirul told Al-Jazeera’s 101 East programme in an interview that was aired this morning.
TO PROTECT MR NAJIB – “THAT’S IT. MY ANSWER”
The big name that Sirul seemed comfortable to drop was that of Najib Razak, Malaysia’s disgraced prime minister who is already in jail for corruption not related to the Altantuya case and who was deputy premier when she was killed.
While he avoided telling who was “controlling” him or paying him the big money to shut up, he said his silence was to protect Najib.
“This is Australia. Anybody can talk, isn’t it? So, I take [the] position, I talk the true thing because I want to expose and then tell the truth now. I want to build a new life in Australia.
“I don’t want to talk lies here,” he said.
“Honestly, I’m going tell you specifically to protect the former (deputy) prime minister at that time, Mr Najib (Abdul Razak).
“So that’s it. My answer.”
WANTS HIS CAKE & EAT IT TOO?
Sirul’s responses were cynically brushed off by many who have been following the torrid murder that has all the elements of a sensational blockbuster – with sex, anal sex, a Mata Hari-styled spy, billion-ringgit submarine purchases, C4 military dynamite, high-powered political players, jealous wives and crooked cops.
Yet, the murder or some call it “an assassination” also left in its trail a beautiful young victim whose body was exploded to dust, her two sons orphaned and a set of traumatized parents. They too want justice and fairness.
“Very honestly, to me it’s like Sirul is talking according to a script that benefits himself the most. In fact, if he is still being controlled by someone or is really repentant, why not come back and reveal everything to free his conscience once and for all. Be it Najib or his friend Razak Baginda or his aide-de-camp Musa Safri or whoever, come clean to make sure the bosses behind the murder also get their due punishment,” a political analyst told Politics Now!
“Sirul can always reach out to Kuala Lumpur, seek a moratorium against execution or strike a deal to commute his death penalty to life imprisonment. But he seems to want his cake and eat it too. To be able to live freely in Australia and who’s to say those million-ringgit cheques won’t keep coming in.”
LACK OF POLITICAL WILL – WHY?
Malaysia recently abolished the mandatory death penalty and has imposed a moratorium against carrying out executions. However, the death penalty itself has not been repealed.
Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has not said what Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government plans to do about Sirul. However, Saifuddin has said Sirul can apply to the Malaysian courts to commute his sentence to life imprisonment.
But a giveaway that the Anwar administration won’t push too hard to bring Sirul back is the minister’s concession that if Sirul does not apply or the court rejects his application, then he would likely remain a free man in Australia.
“That’s politics for you. If Sirul comes back and reveals everything he knows, that may be too big a bombshell for Anwar to handle. Not only is Najib now a political ally but so is Umno and the corruption in the Scorpene submarine purchases stretches all the way there,” another political watcher told Politics Now!
“Nobody is saying bring Sirul home to hang but everyone is saying bring him home to get to the truth as Anwar and Harapan have always promised. They should actually do all they can to satisfy Australian authorities as well as Sirul that he won’t be hung by the neck the moment he touches down in KLIA. To me, it’s a matter of political will, whether they are interested to find out the truth and the whole thing stinks to high heaven.”
Nonetheless, some in the Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition are adamant that Anwar “can’t do a thing until the death penalty is repealed”.
“Australia won’t agree. Malaysia must remove the death sentence on Sirul first. Then Australia will send him back,” a political insider told Politics Now!
WHY IS SIRUL SO AFRAID WHEN CO-KILLER AZILAH IS STILL ALIVE
Sirul and Azilah Hadri, both of whom were Najib’s bodyguards, were convicted in 2009 of killing Altantuya, who was described as an interpreter in the court documents.
Azilah, currently on death row at a Malaysian prison, had claimed Najib ordered him to “arrest and destroy” Altantuya. He also said Najib told him she was a “foreign spy”.
Sirul and Azilah succeeded in overturning their conviction at the Court of Appeal in 2013, but the apex Federal Court restored their conviction in 2015 and sentenced them to death.
Sirul, who mysteriously managed to flee to Australia before the final verdict, was detained by Australian police and held at the immigration detention centre there since 2015. Till this day, there is speculation that whoever helped him to get past Malaysian immigration must be someone with a lot of clout. Yet with such powerful friends, Sirul still claims to be afraid for his life.
His first application for political asylum was rejected by the Australian government in 2019 and he was finally set free earlier this month due to a change in Australian law, which also allows Canberra to impose visa conditions to protect the local community.
FEARS MALAYSIA, LOVES AUSTRALIA – WILL HE SAY THE SAME WHEN BACK IN KL
Meanwhile, Sirul spoke again about his fear of returning to Malaysia and pleaded for acceptance in Canberra.
“I feel in danger there because I’m aware that it’s truly unsafe for me to return. Whatever happens, I want to build a life with my child here in Australia.
“I’m appealing to the community here. Please accept me. I promised my son I would never, ever breach the law here. I follow everything. Please accept me, who I am here.
“I love Australia, really. From my heart, from my soul. Give me a second chance.
“One more thing. I’m going to apologise to the family of the deceased. You know, Altantuya. Please forgive me. That’s it.”
Will kind-hearted Australians be moved by his tale? For sure, Altantuya and her family won’t. Perhaps, he should have given her a second chance too.
Written by Wong Choon Mei, Politics Now!