Tuesday, February 24, 2009

UMNO turns to the British for help on Perak crisis

KUALA LUMPUR – An Umno lawyer is understood to have been instructed by the Barisan Nasional (BN) party to seek advice from a Queen’s Counsel in London in an effort to break the constitutional impasse in Perak. [The Malaysian Insider, 22/2/09]

The petulance of Malaysian politics has taken another twist. This time, it is reported that UMNO has instructed one of it's lawyers to head thousands of miles across the eight time zones to London, with hope of finding a solution to the constitutional crisis already brewing in Perak.

The political cul de sac in Perak started off with the formation of a new state government, spearheaded by the Barisan Nasional (BN), through undemocratic means. The previous administration was led by (now former) Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin of PAS. Many have called the dissolution of the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government as unconstitutional and undemocratic but cries of justice have gone fallen on deaf ears. Interestingly, in a recent SMS poll organised by a local television channel, 79% of its participants agree that fresh elections should be held in Perak.

However, the Perak State Assembly is technically, still in the hands of the Pakatan Rakyat. On February 18, Perak state legislative assembly speaker V. Sivakumar (of DAP) suspended the newly appointed Chief Minister Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir (image) and his executive council members from attending the state legislative assembly. Sivakumar ruled that Zambry and the six new executive councillors were in contempt of the assembly due to their undemocratic appointment into power.

And now, UMNO is turning to our former colonial masters for legal advice to break the deadlock; with the intention to legitimise the establishment of the new Perak state government. The party have instructed one of its lawyers to meet a representative of the Queen's Counsel (QC) in London.

The QC or known as the King's Counsel during the reign of a male monarch, are lawyers appointed by letter patents to be one of "Her [or His] Majesty's Counsel learned in the law". Members have the privilege of sitting within the Bar of court.

But the questions is: Why the need to go all the way to London to seek legal advice when we have our very own Malaysian Bar Council who can do the job? Isn't this a waste of resources?

Well, the reason is clear. The Malaysian Bar Council have already given its Pakatan-friendly verdict on the Perak constitutional dilemma. On February 19, the council's president, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said snap elections in the state were the best solution to democratically decide the legitimacy of the new state government.

"Going back to the people of Perak will. We urge the parties involved to seriously consider doing so, not only in the interest of the people of Perak but also in the interest of stability and the nation as a whole," she said in a press statement. [The Nut Graph, 19/2/09]
Would the Queen's Counsel in London draw the same conclusion as the Malaysian Bar Council? Only time would tell. But if they don't, Robert Mugabe's counsel of lawyers might just be next on UMNO's list. Only then, would they get an answer they want.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Khir Toyo, do you bathe with your clothes on?

-A commentary-

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 – Selangor Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Mohd Khir Toyo urged state executive councillor Elizabeth Wong to resign immediately after her nude photos were circulated. [The Malaysian Insider, 16/2/09]

Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson and state exco member Elizabeth Wong (image) had pictures of her naked being circulated - believed to have been the work of her ex-lover. The pictures were reportedly taken while she was asleep in her own bedroom. However, Malaysians are not naive to rule out any sinister plot by her political enemies to oust her from the seat of power. That notion, no matter how speculative it may be, do hold some water following the coup d’├ętat in Perak by the Barisan Nasional coalition. Nonetheless, what remains speculative shall remain a speculation.

On February 18,Wong offered her resignation as Bukit Lanjan assemblyman and Selangor executive council member in order to 'protect best interests' of her party. But Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim did not accept it and asked her to go on leave instead. Various women groups and public figures have come out to support Wong.

Whilst her supporters including Pakatan leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim are asking Wong to reconsider her decision to quit politics, former Selangor Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Khir Toyo manages to steal the limelight by describing the scandal as an embarrassment to society.

“This is about morality, whether the pictures were taken with or without consent is another matter, I cannot accept a lawmaker whose morality is questionable. This is very embarrassing for the people of Selangor. This is about leadership, the people will not be able to accept this,” Khir Toyo said. [The Malaysian Insider, 16/2/09]

Taking the sex scandal of Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek just over a year ago as an example, Khir Toyo explained how the Barisan Nasional asked the former Health Minister to resign following a video recording of his extra-marital fling with a women.

Khir Toyo further adds that the current scandal involving the 39-year old PKR politician reflects poor leadership and hopes that Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would 'clean up' the party.

Who is Khir Toyo to give us a lesson on morality?

The former Selangor Chief Minister made a grave error by comparing the latest distribution of nude pictures with the sex video of Chua. Both scandals are not the same.

Elizabeth Wong had her pictures taken while she was sleeping without her clothes on. Immoral? No. Every person has a right to his/her own privacy and there is no law to say one can or cannot sleep naked, let alone one's very own bedroom.

Emotional moment: Wong reacting as she announces her offer to resign during the press conference at the PKR headquarters in Petaling Jaya yesterday. (The Star, 18/2/09)

Elizabeth Wong had done nothing wrong. The real crime lies with the person responsible for distributing her nude pictures. Chua Soi Lek, on the other hand, had his extra-marital affairs caught on tape. Infidelity is immoral. Sleeping naked is not.

Now, I am not defending Chua's decision to resign following his sex video. I believe the private lives of every citizen-including a politician's-demand the same degree of respect. But the conservative civic conscience of ours simply cannot accept an 'immoral' public figure. Blame it on our Asian cultural dogmas, you may but it is a common expectation for the private and professional lives of politicians to closely entwine.

In Elizabeth Wong's case, her privacy was betrayed. Sleeping naked is perfectly fine as it is no crime for her to do so in her own home. So, how does that make her immoral?

Khir Toyo should be asked whether he would resign if someone snaps a photograph of him taking a bath? Of course he would! After all, it is immoral to bathe without one's clothes on!

The former Selangor Chief Minister is vying for the UMNO Youth Chief post in a three-corner fight with Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and Khairy Jamaluddin in the upcoming party polls scheduled for March. Nonetheless, Khir Toyo should have known better: Reckless and uneducated statements are not an effective way to gather votes. They only make a politician look stupid.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Suggestion to ban Karpal from Perak unconstitutional?

ALOR SETAR: The Kedah Royal Household Association (PKDK) is proposing the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, ban DAP national chairman Karpal Singh from entering the state. [The Star, 12/2/09]

DAP veteran leader Karpal Singh (image) announced his intention to take the Sultan of Perak to court for allegedly 'acting unconstitutionally' in the latest political coup by the Barisan Nasional coalition. The Pakatan Rakyat state government of Perak found themselves out in the cold when four assemblypersons defected to the BN, allowing the latter to form a new state administration under Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as the succeeding Chief Minister.

To read a detailed chronology of events, click here.

Despite the disputed resignation letters filled by three of the four defectors, by which their seats could be considered if its validity could be verified, the Sultan of Perak did not only fail to dissolve the state assembly for a re-election but also asked then Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin to step down. His Majesty's actions were viewed by some as unconstitutional as Article 16(6) of the Perak Constitution states that:

If the Menteri Besar ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly, then, unless at his request His Royal Highness dissolves the Legislative Assembly, he shall tender the resignation of the Executive Council.
In other words, the only way the Chief Minister can resign from his post is for a vote of no confidence by the Perak State Assembly or the assembly being dissolved by the monarch. There has neither been a call for a vote of no confidence against him nor has the assembly been officially declared dissolved. Nonetheless, the new BN state government went on to install a new Chief Minister despite the legal discrepancies.

The biggest critic of His Majesty Sultan Azlan Shah was Bukit Gelugor MP, Karpal Singh. The ever-fiery politician planned to take the monarch to court to settle the legitimacy of his actions over the appointment of the new Chief Minister and the establishment of a new state government. Many quarters have heavily condemned the politician with some even suggesting he'd be stripped of his citizenship for questioning the power of Malay rulers.

On February 11, Karpal decided to back down after a long discussion between party leaders to take the Sultan to court. Pakatan leaders unanimously agreed that the monarch should not be sued and Karpal said he would fall in line with the party's stand despite disagreeing with it.

However, that did not stop further criticism being hurled at the DAP national chairman. The latest of which was from The Kedah Royal Household Association (PKDK). The association is proposing to the Sultan of Perak to ban Karpal from entering the state. Its president Datuk Tengku Zainol Rashid Tengku Yahya suggested it was an appropriate form of punishment for one who had insulted the Perak Ruler.

“We propose that the Sultan of Perak ban Karpal from entering the state as we feel that his action is against the country’s Constitution. His action also (does no good) to his credibility as a senior lawyer and as an elected representative,” he said at a joint press conference with the Malay Unity Action Front (BBPM) here Thursday. [The Star, 12/2/09]
Now, the last time I checked, we live in the 21st Century where the monarchies of our country are bounded by the written law we call the constitution. A more superior law would be the Federal Constitution which takes precedence over the constitution of any state within the federation. Hence, for the PKDK to suggest or think the Sultan of Perak has the power to ban any citizen from entering the state is unconstitutional.

I may not be a lawyer (and correct me if I am wrong, lawyers) but from my quick study of our Federal Constitution, I found out that in Article 9, it states:
  • (2) Subject to Clause (3) and to any law relating to the security of the Federation or any part thereof, public order, public health, or the punishment of offenders, every citizen has the right to move freely throughout the Federation and to reside in any part thereof.
  • (3) So long as under this Constitution any other State is in a special position as compared with the States of Malaya, Parliament may by law impose restrictions, as between that State and other States, on the rights conferred by Clause (2) in respect of movement and residence.
There are two points which, I believe, the PKDK have overlooked. Article 9 (2) states that every citizen (and I believe Karpal is one!) has the right to move freely throughout the country. The Federal Constitution already provides the liberty to every citizen the freedom of movement within country. So, what gives PKDK the right to suggest who should be banned from entering which state.

Clause (2), however, mentions the restriction of such liberties to citizens who are deemed threats to national security . The PKDK may argue that Karpal is a 'threat' to public order for questioning the Sultan of Perak and rousing the anger of many. Even so, Clause (3) states quite clearly that such restrictions are under the jurisdiction of the Parliament. The issue here is that the PKDK has asked the Perak Ruler to ban Karpal from entering the state, implying that His Majesty has the power to do so.

We no longer live in feudalistic days where the monarchy was absolute. State governments are democratically elected and hence, the real power lies with the people.

In his 2004 book, Constitutional Monarchy, Rule of Law and Good Governance, the Sultan of Perak said:
"Under normal circumstances, it is taken for granted that the Yang diPertuan Agong would not withhold his consent to a request for the dissolution of Parliament. His role is purely formal."
And that extends to state Rulers as well, I presume? But then again, what do I know about law!
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The price of our democracy - A Camry

-A commentary-

The Perak political fiasco has revealed the multi-facades of politicians who are willing to trade the trust and faith bestowed upon them by the people for material gains and positions of power. Three assemblypersons of the PKR declared themselves 'independent' and one re-joining UMNO 10 days after announcing his entry into the Pakatan Rakyat gave the Barisan Nasional coalition the opportunity to seize control over the state.

Jelapang assemblywoman Hee Yit Fong (image), probably the country's most hated woman right now, was said to be upset with the DAP leadership for not appointing her as a state exco. Thus, the clerk-turned-politician was not eligible for the new Toyota Camry the state has decided to purchase for state excos to replace the ageing fleet of Proton Perdanas.

On February 7, Perak DAP chairman Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham told reporters that Hee had initially asked for an exco seat but was denied by the party leadership.

Before the takeover, Hee was reported to have gone incommunicado with the party leadership and it was speculated that defection to the BN was imminent. DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng criticised Hee's actions through the media but the assemblywomen bit back, saying Lim should have 'some confidence in her'. Hee was apparently 'not feeling well' and switched off her mobile phone but Malaysians are not stupid to know that it was just a cheap excuse.

In less than a week after the declaration of a takeover by the BN, it was reported by The Malaysian Insider that Hee might just make it in the new line-up of state excos. And of course, if she does, she would finally receive her beloved Toyota Camry.

However, as of February 10, the new Perak state government announced its line-up of six new state excos as compared to the previous 10 under the Pakatan administration. And sure enough, none of the three independent assemblyperson who defected to the BN were on the list Perhaps it could only be a matter of time before their appointments as 'independents' may not be appointed as state excos. This is a grey area within Malaysian politics where the Chief Minister has the prerogative to appoint who he sees fit, according to Former Court of Appeal Judge Datuk N.H. Chan.

Hee has been targeted as the major culprit in assisting the BN takeover of Perak. That is because the other three who jumped ship have 'valid' reasons to do so whilst Hee's switch of allegiance can only be justified with one word - greed. But that is just my point of view.

Here is why. Firstly, both assemblymen Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang) and Mohd Osman Jailu (Changkat Jering) were charged with corruption prior to their defection. It is only plausible for one to speculate that they may just want to spare themselves from the political guillotine by jumping ship; thinking the BN might offer them an olive branch or rather, an escape rope?

Bota assemblyman Nasarudin Hashim, on the other hand, joined the Pakatan Rakyat from UMNO. He made a mockery of Malaysian politics when he announced his entry into the Pakatan Rakyat and then re-joined his former party 10 days later. Hence, it may be fair speculate that Nasarudin could have had skeletons in his political closet, forcing the Bota assemblyman to rejoin the party to guarantee silence on 'past sins'. But that's just speculation.

So, the three assemblymen mentioned above have their 'reasons' we could all understand (but ultimately, disapprove) for defecting to the BN. But what does Hee have to at least justify her defection apart from greed? She is neither charged for corruption or abuse of power. She has no reason to defect. In fact, she has not come out to explain her change in loyalties and had only mentioned her 'disappointment' in the DAP leadership for not having faith in her.

Thus, the Pakatan government would still command the majority even if only three assemblymen mentioned in the above were to defect to the BN coalition. Hee's actions have been pivotal in tipping the scale to BN's favour.

I can only say as much as to why Hee defected to the BN until she comes out of the cold to tell us all. But from her ramblings through the media, it is clear that she has been disappointed for not being offered a higher position of power. Could Hee have defected simply for being mad at her party superiors?

If truly she was disillusioned with the DAP, the only course of action would be to publicly resign for her post and party membership. Jumping ship would only mean BN has something better to offer.

Before this turns further into a scathing literal attack on Hee, let me just say that I may understand the actions of the other three assemblymen, I just fail to see the reasons for Hee to defect other than a tantrum directed to the DAP leadership and the greed for power.

For the time being, we could only wait and see if Hee would finally get her Toyota Camry. That would be the price she paid for selling democracy. But I foresee she may need soundproof doors to repel the countless verbal insults bound for a traitor.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Perak defections - Pakatan tastes its own medicine

-A commentary-

PUTRAJAYA, 4 Feb 2009: The Barisan Nasional (BN) is ready to form a new government in Perak following four assemblypersons in the state quitting their parties to support the BN, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. [The Nut Graph, 4/2/09]

Look's like the Pakatan Rakyat has got a chance to taste its own medicine as the Perak state government's fate hangs on a thread after four assemblypersons 'defected' to the Barisan Nasional.

On January 25, it was announced that assemblyman of Bota, Datuk Nasaruddin Hashim (BN) has decided to trade his UMNO colours for the Pakatan's. However, Nasaruddin rejoined UMNO 10 days later after 'pledging' his allegiance to the Pakatan. Such indecisiveness from the BN man is anyone's guess. But it is just a political staged show for what is to come, I reckon.

The other three assemblypersons are Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang), Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (Changkat Jering), and Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang) whom all decided to leave the Pakatan to remain 'independent'. All three of them have promised full support for the Barisan Nasional if fresh state elections were to be held.

With the current state of affairs, both the Pakatan and BN have 28 seats each in the 59-seat state assembly. However, BN has the upper hand in this tussle for power, with all three 'independent' assemblypersons mentioned in the above pledging their support the coaltion.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced on February 4 that the BN coalition is fit and ready to seize control of the state. On the other side of the fence, the Pakatan are calling for fresh state elections, in an attempt to settle scores more democratically. Either way, the decision to dissolve the state assembly in order for an election to take place lies with the Perak state monarch.

This is the ugly side of Malaysian politics. I have personally grown to disagree with party defections simply because it is unethical. Regardless of whether the outcome favours the party I support or not, such methods of gaining power is indeed improper. What is the point of having elections when someday our elected representatives could decide for themselves which ship to jump. Would that constitute as cheating the voters at the end of the day? I believe so.

Say I voted MP Bob, who is running for Party A, because I disliked Party B. And one day, to my horror, MP Bob decides to join Party B. What happens to the votes that put him in office in the first place? Those votes were for Party A too.

Post-March 8 Elections (2008) have seen the Pakatan Rakyat denying the BN its 2/3's parliamentary majority it has always enjoyed. By all means, the BN only managed to retain federal power with landslide victories in Sabah and Sarawak. The so-close-yet-so-far dilemma soon settled in and Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (image) stunned everyone by claiming the Pakatan was able to form a new government by September 16 (2008) with the help of defecting BN MPs - 30 of them. Of course, September 16 came and nothing happened. Personally, I was looking forward to it and was disappointed it did not happen. However, I was glad it didn't because it would not be right to entice opposing MPs to switch loyalties in order to form a new government. It is undemocratic, in my opinion. If the Pakatan wants to do so, they would just have to wait till the next General Elections. That's democracy.

The Perak saga has Najib beating Anwar to his game. There has been suggestions for an anti-hopping law for politicians fond of switching parties while in office but the the High Court declared in 1992 that the anti-hop law was unconstitutional as it went against the freedom of association as enshrined in the Federal Constitution. The Pakatan justified party-hopping in the post -General Election months as it appeared to have the edge in the political race to form a new government.

However, the Pakatan are now calling for the implementation of the anti-hopping law and fresh elections to re-decide the fate of affairs following party defections. Unfortunately, I don't hear them saying the same things when Anwar audaciously predicted mass defections from the BN camp a year ago. Politicians are just hypocritical.

As unethical party-hopping may be, the same applies to 'position inheritance' as being currently practiced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his second-in-command, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Badawi announced that he will step down in March 2009, making way for Najib to ascend to the country's top post. Is this not 'position inheriting'?

Look at it this way. Badawi did not intend to retire if it wasn't for the heavy losses suffered by the BN in the 2008 March 8 Elections. He naturally took the blame for the poor results as he was also pressured by many groups to make way for a new and 'stronger' leader. But Badawi ran as Prime Minister in the General Elections and people who voted for him genuinely supported him to retain his position.

So what happens when Badawi suddenly decides to 'hand over' that position of his to Najib? What if I voted for Badawi because I liked him being the Prime Minister but I disagree with Najib being the next one? So, people like me do not have a say when Badawi decides to just allow Najib to 'inherit' the title of Prime Minister. If party defections are enough to call for fresh elections, how is a resigning Prime Minister not?

Politics in Malaysia has been shamefully reduced to unethical methods like party-hopping, defections and 'position inheriting'. This is not true democracy. True democracy lies in the hands of the people - the rakyat who decides who stays and who goes. The politicians do not decide for themselves who we should or should not support! We decide.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

MACC may arrest others but not UMNO members?

-A commentary-

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29 — About 30 members of the Youth and Putera wings of Umno tonight handed a memorandum of protest to the party leadership on the intervention by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in party matters. [The Malaysian Insider, 29/1/09]

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) recently began a series of cleansing in UMNO by arresting and charging several key party members for corruption. Reports of vote-buying amongst candidates for party posts sent to the MACC expectantly intensified as the party prepares for its polls this March.

While this latest display of decisiveness by the MACC is none other than a fulfilment of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's long-awaited promise for reform and zero-tolerance on corruption, there are still certain quarters of the UMNO hegemony who did not seem all too happy about the fold of events.

On January 29, it was reported that members of the Youth and Putera wings of UMNO protested against the MACC by handing over a memorandum to Badawi, condemning the commission's intervention of the party's internal affairs. The group gathered at the main entrance to Menara Datuk Onn, the building where UMNO leaders were scheduled to hold a supreme council meeting to voice their discontentment.

The protesters held up placards that read “The Disciplinary Board is senile,” “Don’t take away our rights” and “We reject the MACC, butt out!” and further criticised the chairman of the UMNO Diciplinary Board, Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail's suggestion that the party’s wings be dissolved to curb money politics.

“The formation of the MACC is not to beat suspects when questioning them. Thirty-nine people have been called up for questioning, the number of those remanded is uncertain but two or three people have lodged police reports. We have proof of the incidents through a copy of the police report lodged by a party member which is attached to the memorandum,” the spokesperson for the group, Zuraidi Abdul Rahim told reporters. [The Malaysian Insider, 29/1/09]
But how MACC officers perform their duties is beside the point. The main question is: Are UMNO members untouchable, even if they are suspected for graft?

The main task of the MACC is to, of course, curb corruption. And it is not rocket science to know that money politics is a form of corruption.

The group representing UMNO Youth and Putera are rejecting the MACC for intervening in party matters. However, claims of money politics is not an 'internal party matter' but rather, an issue the MACC has an obligation to investigate and hold those responsible. The group has, indeed, no right to dictate what the commission can or cannot do to perform its duty to eradicate corruption. In other words, UMNO members are not demi-gods to be spared from the rule of law.

On August 12, 2007, the Prime Minister said, in relation to a separate matter, that the MACC (then called the Anti-Corruption Agency) is allowed to investigate cases involving money politics in UMNO. And again in January 23 this year, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that the MACC is free to conduct its own investigations into claims of money politics among UMNO members.

Nonetheless, the MACC Chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan remains defiant that his organisation will continue to uphold it's mandate to curb corruption. He even declared that "the MACC is going after vote-buying in UMNO, whether the party likes it or not", as to the MACC, "money politics simply means corruption". He has it spot on!

"We will conduct our own investigations even if the disciplinary board is looking into the case. Never mind if the investigations overlap, we will still have to be there," the MACC Chief Commissioner told reporters. [NST, 30/1/09]
This would be the commission's ultimate test to prove it's independence and autonomy in carrying out their responsibilities bestowed upon them through the MACC Act by the Parliament last month.

As for the protesters, to reject the MACC simply because its officers had allegedly beaten up detained UMNO members during interrogation is a joke. Taking the recent controversy of alleged police brutality on car thief suspect Kugan Ananthan who died in custody as an example, no one was foolish enough to suggest that the Royal Malaysian Police be abolished. But rather, the public are calling for reforms and tighter policies for the police force.

Likewise, the protesters have to do better than just looking for an excuse to condemn and reject the MACC based on statistics of 'beaten up' party members. If so, with the number of unsolved crimes in the country, should we also reject the entire idea of a police force too? Of course not!

If they have a problem with the harsh tactics of MACC officers, then they should demand an inquiry as a separate matter and take it to court.

The group representing the UMNO Youth and Putera condemns the MACC's investigation into claims of money politics which they feel it is an internal affair. The Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar once said "no one is above the law" to two deputy ministers accused of accompanying an unruly crowd recently. So, having said that, are UMNO members untouchable by the MACC?

The answer is simple. Ask Syed Hamid, an UMNO man himself.

Note: First image courtesy of Malaysiakini
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