Source : Malaysiakini
So private investigator P Balasubramaniam made two statutory declarations (SD) within two days, declaring on two separate occasions that he signed them voluntarily.
The problem is that they were two contradictory SDs - so one has to be true and the other false. Which one is a lie is for the court to decide in due course.
Meantime, did the private eye commit a crime by his action?
Many lawyers think so.
DAP chairperson and lawyer Karpal Singh says that lying under oath in a SD is wrong and he wants Balasubramaniam to be investigated under the Penal Code.
“One cannot just make such a declaration and later withdraw it and such an act amounted to giving false evidence, an offence which carries a maximum of seven years' jail,” the New Straits Times quoted him as saying today.
Karpal said it was baffling that the private investigator was now claiming he made the declaration under duress.
"What duress is he talking about. He has not given any details of the kind of duress under which he made it (the statutory declaration). The sting of his declaration is now gone," he said.
"I am acting on behalf on Altantuya Shaariibuu and the Mongolian government in her murder trial. The dramatic disclosure in the declaration is a serious matter which involves Malaysia's reputation," Karpal added.
Recall Bala to the stand
Kuala Lumpur Bar criminal practice committee chairperson N Sivananthan also said Balasubramaniam has committed an offence for making conflicting SD in relation to the ongoing Altantuya murder trial.
He said the prosecution or the defence should recall the private investigator to the stand as the contents of the first SD were related to the case, adding that recalling Balasubramaniam to the witness stand was provided for under the law.
Lawyer Gurbachan Singh said a SD stood as truth as it was made under oath.
"Balasubramaniam's claim that he made the first SD under duress was a mere excuse. This is utter nonsense because he had a lawyer advising him. Moreover, the SD was made before a commissioner for oaths," he told the national daily.
He said no lawyer was going to draft a SD without his client's instruction.
Lawyer Mohamad Ramli Abdul Manan said Balasubramaniam made two contradictory statutory declarations. "Both cannot be true or false. One of it is definitely false."
He said whether Balasubramaniam was going to be prosecuted was another question.
"But Balasubramaniam will have to explain why he made two conflicting SDs," Mohamad Ramli told the NST.
Meanwhile, Bar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan said the first SD made by private Balasubramaniam linking Najib Razak with Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, cannot be withdrawn.
"A statutory declaration is a document that contains evidence given on oath. It is sworn before a commissioner for oaths. As in the case of all evidence given under oath, it cannot be withdrawn," she told Bernama last night.
A serving judge meanwhile opined that Balasubramaniam’s act of retracting his initial declaration, which made serious accusations against Najib, could open the private investigator to perjury charges.
According to the judge, who declined to be named, affirming a statutory declaration was akin to giving evidence in court.
“Under the normal rule of evidence, one cannot withdraw it unless he has very strong reasons. Those reasons must be included in the withdrawal or else he would be committing perjury,” he told the Star.
He said if one was citing duress as a reason for making false accusations in a statutory declaration, he must present proof of such pressure.
“He must show that the pressure was serious like it’s life-threatening to him or his family members. He cannot just say that he is withdrawing the statutory statement because he had earlier been forced to do it.
"Someone can now lodge a police report against him and he could face a perjury charge,” the judge added.
Conduct immediate probe
Meanwhile, social reform movement Aliran wants the police to investigate immediately on what transpired the night Balasubramaniam went to Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur to meet a police officer.
"We believe 'what happened on that night' could unknot the mystery behind the private investigator's contradicting sworn statements," its president P Ramakrishnan said in a statement.
He called on the investigation to be transparent and leave no stone unturned for the truth to prevail as Malaysians were skeptical about the private eye's second statutory declaration.
"Malaysians are curious on the happenings behind the scene that transformed the former Special Branch lance corporal to change his mind on his first sworn statement in less than 24 hours.
"We all want to know what transpired in-between the night the private eye apparently went to meet an officer at the police station and the morning he came up with his retraction," Ramakrishnan added.
According to Bernama, he announced that the police would continue to carry out their investigations as there might be hidden motives involved.
"There might be intentions to create diversion, so we should carry out a thorough investigation," said Ismail.
Man of the hour, Balasubramaniam made a second statutory declaration on Friday retracting his first one, which was made public on Thursday.
The original statutory declaration revealed explosive evidence linking Najib with the murdered Mongolian woman.
His second SD retracts all references to Najib, which he had solemnly sworn under the Statutory Declaration Act 1960.
Since the first statutory declaration was a lie, Ramakrishnan said the authorities have to move fast to investigate the authenticity of the second one to determine that it was not concocted, and done freely, voluntarily and not under duress.