Private investigator P. Balasubramaniam is gone, and his untimely death from a heart attack makes it all the more pressing for Malaysians to find answers to the mystery of the murder of the Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Who actually did it? Logically, it would seem unlikely that the two police personnel who have been convicted acted on their own. What would be the motive of Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar and Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri? They didn’t even know Altantuya before they whisked her away and dealt the fatal blow. It would seem they were merely hitmen.
Furthermore, according to Sirul’s cautioned statement, they were offered RM50,000 to RM100,000 to dispose of Altantuya. If this is true, who made the offer?
Other questions float in limbo like ghosts whose souls have not been put to rest. How did these two men get their hands on the C4 explosive used to blow Altantuya’s body to smithereens? It’s something that is difficult to procure. Did they have help from certain quarters?
Bala had said that he wanted to reveal what he knew about matters related to the murder in order to bring justice to Altantuya and the two convicted men. But now he is unable to testify in court.
He did, however, manage to come home from exile to publicly announce that he stood by his first statutory declaration (SD) in which he implicated Prime Minister Najib Razak – if only in the sense that the latter knew Altantuya and had had a sexual relationship with her, and that he might have influenced the attorney-general on the handling of the murder trial.
This first SD also stated that although Bala gave a statement to the police that included Najib’s alleged relationship with Altantuya, what he was given to sign omitted this detail. And when he gave testimony at the murder trial, the lawyers never asked him about that relationship either.
So seemingly damning was this first SD that the very next day, Bala took everyone by surprise when he came out with a second SD that not only retracted the entire contents of the first but also specifically named as being untrue all the parts that referred to Najib.
Since then, businessman Deepak Jaikishan has come out to divulge that he was involved in getting Bala to make the second SD, together with Najib’s brother, Nazim. He said he did this at the request of Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, and that Najib arranged for a senior lawyer to prepare the second SD. He said he regretted getting involved: “It was the biggest mistake I have made.”
Does this vindicate Bala? Well, it depends on whether Deepak is telling the truth. Najib has said Deepak is “not credible” and dismissed what he has revealed as “not an issue”, even though it reinforces Bala’s statement that Najib allegedly knew Altantuya.
And now to further consolidate Deepak’s allegations about the second SD, Bala’s lawyer, Americk Singh, has disclosed to the Bar Council that the senior lawyer who Deepak said prepared it is Cecil Abraham.
Americk said Cecil disclosed this to him in confidence, and – even more interesting – that Cecil said he was acting on instructions from Najib.
Americk apologised to Cecil for breaking his promise of confidence, but felt he had to make it for the sake of carrying on Bala’s quest for justice. To many, Americk did the right thing.
The obvious next step now is for the relevant authorities to query Cecil to verify if this is true. Of course, it could still be one man’s word against the other’s. If Cecil did prepare the second SD knowing that it would contradict Bala’s true intent, he would be guilty of professional misconduct. But if he denies it, and assuming that he believes Bala’s first SD to be true, he would be maligning the word of a man who has just died.
It will be a tough call for Cecil. And even if he were to admit that it was Najib who gave him the instructions, it still may not prove anything unless he has black-and-white evidence of those instructions, or someone else was present to corroborate the fact.
In view of all the allegations that have come about and the keenness of Malaysians to get to the bottom of the murder mystery, perhaps it’s time for everyone concerned to do the right thing. Including Najib.
Some of the pieces seem to fit, and although the picture that emerges may be hazy and inconclusive, his face keeps popping up because of certain circumstances. For example, the two men who have been convicted were at the time of the murder serving as bodyguards to then prime minister Abdullah Badawi and also to Najib. And DSP Musa Safri, who is said to have been a potentially important witness but never called to the stand, was Najib’s aide-de-camp then.
At some point, Najib must surely have to come out and categorically debunk the allegations. Saying that Deepak lacks credibility is not enough to convince the people. And although Najib has sworn on the Quran that he has never met Altantuya, this may not satisfy logical minds.
The impression one gets is that Najib prefers to ignore the issue so that it won’t get any bigger, and that he hopes people will in time forget. But the issue is not getting smaller, and people have not forgotten after seven years.
As such, Najib is being confronted with a big dilemma. As the plot of the Altantuya mystery continues to thicken and he continues to distance himself from it, he could be leading the ruling party into the upcoming general election with an albatross around his neck.
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, and the latest volume, Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More!