Written by Mohamed Hanipa Maidin 

KUALA LUMPUR (Politics Now!) – With the latest salvo emanated from a convicted felon — Sirul Azhar Umar — in his latest interview in Al-Jazeera’s “101 East” programme, it seems that Malaysia will be tormented by the spectre of Altantuya for good.

Though Sirul chose not to divulge the alleged mastermind of the Altantuya’s murder, he, nonetheless, dropped a devastating bombshell by revealing to Al-Jazeera that there are still ongoing efforts to influence him in order to protect Najib.

Sirul also exposed this hearsay statement i.e. Azilah had told him that they were carrying out a “special operation” for Najib.

As expected, such a damning revelation by Sirul has solicited a slew of reactions. Najib’s lawyer i.e Shafee & Co promptly reacted by issuing statements that their client — Najib — has been conclusively exonerated of any involvement in Altantuya’s case.

The lawyer also claimed that such an exoneration has been affirmed by relevant authorities, including investigations restarted post-GE14 (2018) and a reaffirmation by the High Court, Court of Appeal, and ultimately by way of a substantive appeal in the Federal Court.

Let me add additional info. In December 2019, Najib also took an oath at a mosque on Friday, denying allegations that he ordered the 2006 murder of a Mongolian model.

Apparently, the oath-taking ceremony is one of the popular methods in Malaysian politics for politicians to seek to clear their names.

We have no idea of the alleged involvement of Najib in such a gruesome murder, thus we are not keen to speculate.

What we know is that the late Altantuya was in a romantic relationship with Abdul Razak Baginda, a politically connected defence analyst and an adviser to Najib when he was a defence minister.

Further, it has been in public knowledge that in 2002, Abdul Razak brokered a US$1.1 billion deal for the Malaysian Defence Ministry to buy two French Scorpene-class submarines and Altantuya allegedly demanded US$500,000 to stay quiet about the alleged corruption in the deal, thus fuelling speculation that this is why she was grotesquely “exterminated”.

To be fair to Sirul, apparently he was not alone in implicating Najib in Altantuya’s murder. Media also reported that on Dec 16, 2018, another convicted felon of Altantuya’s murder, namely Azilah Hadri, also categorically affirmed in his statutory declaration (SD) — in his bid for a retrial — explicitly implicated Najib in such a heinous crime.

It is not clear as to why Najib has not instructed his lawyer to file a libel suit against either Azilah for such a damning confession in the statutory declaration, or Sirul for his latest revelation in Al-Jazeerah, assuming such information are proven to be defamatory.

I guess Najib must be extremely concerned about salvaging and honouring his integrity and credibility. Be that as it may, if Najib is serious about protecting his credentials, suing Azilah and Sirul may be one of the best routes in accomplishing that.

The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) also reacted to Sirul’s latest closure. It regarded the statement by Sirul — a former commando — in the interview regarding his conviction in the murder of Altantuya — as unfounded and could create more speculation.

Perhaps PDRM and Najib’s lawyer are right. Sirul was already found guilt by our judicial system. Hence, his purported exoneration via media is not legally proper. But, is Sirul alone resorting to such a tactic?

When Sirul admitted to taking money for his silence, it would be logical for this convicted murderer not to raise much “new info” during his previous trial. After all, he is fully aware of what happened to Altantuya when she refused to be silenced.

Writer – Mohamed Hanipa Maidin is a former deputy minister of law in Malaysia, as well as a former Member of Parliament. He was also a practising lawyer for almost 25 years.