By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today demanded the courts, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah publicly clear the mystery over the latter's alleged government appointment for a "sensitive legal assignment" abroad.
Acknowledging that Shafee had mentioned contradicting dates when appealing to adjourn his cases in courts for the purported assignment, Anwar said the pro-Umno lawyer should go on record to explain the matter clearly.
"(PKR secretary-general) Saifuddin (Nasution) raised the issue in Parliament, he read the letter. So he (Shafee) needs to explain," he said when approached in Parliament today.
Anwar (picture) was referring to a letter allegedly penned by Shafee on March 23 to several top judges, seeking to postpone his cases from April 1 to 25 to enable him to attend to the "sensitive legal assignment".
According to the letter, which was partially read by Saifuddin in Parliament on Tuesday, Shafee had said the assignment was on direct orders from Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and had to be completed "before the next general election".
The letter did not describe the nature of Shafee's assignment but said it would entail extensive travel across the globe to cities like London, New York Dubai, Paris and Basel, in Switzerland.
But a second letter, also seeking adjournment, surfaced yesterday from Shafee's legal firm, this time claiming that the prominent Umno lawyer has to attend the Commonwealth Law Conference in Sydney for a law conference from April 18 to 22.
The dates in Shafee's first and second letter were clearly in contradiction with one another.
Adding further to the mystery, members of the Malaysian Bar contacted The Malaysian Insider today to point out that news reports from April 13 (last Friday) had referred to Shafee's presence at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court as lead counsel to National Feedlot Corporation's (NFCorp) chief executive Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail.
According to a report from English daily The Star, Shafee had acted for Mohamad when the latter applied to the court to temporarily return his passport for a trip overseas.
"These cases are all shrouded in secrecy... is he using public funds? Or just using the basis of trying to go on behalf of the PM and his wife (to seek adjournment)? Both Najib and Shafee has to explain," Anwar said in response today.
He added that the courts must also explain its actions when receiving such reasons in an appeal for postponement of important cases.
"Can they accept?" he asked.
The Opposition Leader, who himself is no stranger to court proceedings, asked if the court would have accepted if he had sought to postpone his cases for similar reasons.
"Can I write then, as the leader of the opposition, saying I have something very important, of national interest, to attend to.
"Can the court consider?" asked Anwar, who was recently acquitted of a sodomy charge.
"We want to hear not only from the government but from the court. Let's see what the court has to say since they claim that the judiciary is getting more independent," he added.
PKR has linked the "assignment" to the ongoing Scorpene submarine sale probe by French authorities, to which Najib and Rosmah has also been pinned to.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz had said in Parliament on Tuesday that Shafee may have "misrepresented" himself for stating in the letter that he was on assignment for the government.
The minister pointed out that the government cannot appoint a lawyer for the wife of the prime minister.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee has also said that any lawyer found lying about his reason for postponing a case would have committed professional misconduct.
Recent media reports have pinned Najib to the RM7.3 billion Scorpene submarine deal by French authorities, which has also been linked to the brutal murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Altantuya's alleged one-time lover Abdul Razak Baginda, said to be a close associate of Najib's, was acquitted of a charge of abetting two Special Action Squad members - Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar - to commit the 2006 murder.
Last week, Altantuya's father Dr Setev Shaariibuu told a press conference in Petaling Jaya that he had offered himself as witness in the submarine probe, claiming that his testimony would be able to "connect the dots" between her death and the Scorpene case.