(Used by permission)
by Beh Lih Yi
Lawyer VK Lingam (at right in photo) today told the royal commission probing the scandalous judge–fixing video clip that it was up to him to ‘pretend’ to talk to whomever he wanted to. (Please click here to take part in the polls.)
“I can choose whatever topic I like. I can even pretend to talk to President Bush if I like,” he said to a question from Malaysian Bar counsel Ranjit Singh at Day 8 of the inquiry.
Asked by Ranjit as to why he chose to talk on judges’ appointment in his
telephone conversation which was captured on the 14–minute clip which was
secretly recorded in 2001, Lingam said he was entitled to talk ‘whatever
rubbish’ in his house.
“That (conversation) was in my house. That was in the privacy of my room. My house is my castle. I am the king there. I can talk whatever rubbish in my house as long as I don’t get drunk outside and misbehave,” he said.
When further pressed as to why he told businessman Loh Mui Fah that he was talking to then chief judge of Malaya Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, Lingam said he does not recollect mentioning that to Loh.
“Even if I did say it and I am sorry to use this word but I was bullshitting and bragging,” he said, to which Ranjit pursued by asking whether he was also ‘bullshitting and bragging’ during the recorded phone conversation.
“It could be bragging, it could be bullshitting,” Lingam replied.
Local experts’ report ‘flawed’
Last week, Loh had testified that he was at Lingam’s house when the mobile phone conversation took place. He said that when he asked who was at the other end of the line, Lingam told him it was Ahmad Fairuz.
Loh’s son, Gwo Burne, had earlier to this admitted that he was the one who secretly recorded the phone conversation using a hi–tech camera..
Lingam has testified on Monday that he was unable to say whether the man talking on the phone in the clip was him saying that: “It looks like me, it sounds like me”.
Clad in his trademark black suit and red–stripped tie, Lingam, 57, was put on the stand – his second time – for the entire session today and grilled by the Malaysian Bar counsel mainly over his 1994 New Zealand trip with former chief justice Mohd Eusoff Chin (seen in a NZ holiday pix snapshot, left).
Although the questions appeared to be slightly intense towards the end, Lingam remained unflappable and provided replies which alternately stunned those present or had them laughing.
At one juncture, when he was asked by Ranjit whether he went to Lake Wakatipu – the third largest lake in New Zealand – with Eusoff’s family, he answered: “I can’t remember, this sounds like Papua New Guinea.”
“Are you saying that you also went to Papua New Guinea with Eusoff?” Ranjit countered, to which Lingam smiled and replied that he had not.
Lingam also corrected commissioner Mahadev Shankar who at the end of the proceeding ‘mistakenly’ quoted Lingam as denying being the man in the clip.
“No, no, no, my learned commissioner, you didn’t get me right. I said it looks like me, it sounds like me. I didn’t said it’s not me. I don’t want to say it’s 100 percent me because the authenticity of the clip has to be established,” he told Mahadev.
Lingam claimed two experts he had engaged showed that a report by local authorities confirming the clip’s authenticity was “fundamentally flawed and defective”.
He added that the duo were willing to testify if called by the commission.
Photos, air tickets tendered
The inquiry also saw the Malaysian Bar tendering nine photos of the Eusoff–Lingam trip to New Zealand and 15 air tickets showing they had travelled together – evidence disputed by Lingam.
After going through a few photos, Lingam asked: “Do we have the negatives of these pictures? It’s required in law and it’s been over 13 years (since the trip) [...] I would like to look at the negatives just to make the story complete.”
Ranjit then informed the commission that well–known criminal lawyer Mohd Shafee Abdullah was in possession of the negatives and willing to furnish the evidence.
Referring to the set of air tickets, Ranjit asked how could the tickets for Lingam’s wife and Eusoff’s daughter been issued together if the two families had only ‘bumped into each other’ in New Zealand as claimed by Lingam.
“The tickets are separate tickets with separate number. They were just stapled together and anybody can staple them [...] I don’t know who did it, I have not seen it, you have to call the maker who did it,” Lingam replied.
Earlier, the besieged lawyer told the commission that neither his office, his family or himself kept a record of his prepaid mobile phone numbers. Registration of prepaid mobile phone numbers were not required at the time.
“I changed my prepaid numbers very often when I lost my mobile phone. I also change my house phone number very often because there are many prank calls to me and my maid at late hours,” he said to a question from another Malaysian Bar counsel Robert Lazar.
Lingam’s prepaid mobile phone number has been a bone of contention in the inquiry as the Anti–Corruption Agency (ACA) is unable to trace the phone conversation record with local telcos since Lingam claimed he could not remember his number.
Lazar also asked Lingam why he had brought up Ahmad Fairuz’s name in his previous testimony when he was sure that the former judge was not the person at the other end of the phone.
“It was so widely reported in Malaysiakini that it must have been Ahmad Fairuz. It’s been in the public domain since September 2007 (when the clip was revealed). I want to tell the truth to make it very clear,” he replied.
Asked on his opinion that whether the man in the clip was drunk, Lingam said: “Yes, he is not very steady. He is a little bit of dancing around.”
Commission chairperson Haidar Mohd Noor then pointed out what was seen in the clip was different from ‘dancing’.
“You can dance in any form you like,” Lingam told Haidar drawing chuckles from those present.
Decision on Lingam’s brother
Haidar informed lawyers M Puravalen and Wee Choo Keong that the commission will hear their submissions on their clients’ chances to testify before the commission tomorrow morning in a closed–session. Lingam will also continue with his testimony tomorrow.
Puravalen is representing PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim, R Sivarasa and Sim Tze Tzin while Wee represents Lingam’s brother, V Thirunama Karasu.
There is no word from the commissioners yet whether they will extend the hearing as there are at least three other key witnesses who have yet to take the stand – Ahmad Fairuz, tycoon Vincent Tan and former chief justice Dzaiddin Abdullah.
The commission is also expected to continue hearing former chief justice Eusoff’s testimony and recall two other witnesses from the ACA and CyberSecurity Malaysia.
The commission had earlier planned to wrap up the hearing by tomorrow.
The five commissioners – Haidar, former Court of Appeal judge Mahadev Shankar, Suhakam commissioner Dr Khoo Kay Kim, former chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak Steve Shim and former solicitor–general Zaitun Zawiyah Puteh – are assisted by PM's department legal affairs division director–general Abdullah Sani who acts as the secretary for the commission.
A team of minute–takers are also present to assist in compiling the hearings for the commission to come up with their report later.
The commission was set up to ascertain the authenticity of the video clip; identify the persons in the video clip; ascertain the truth or otherwise of the content of the conversation in the video clip, determine whether there is any misconduct and to recommend appropriate action against the person or persons identified in the video clip if there is misconduct.
Q&A: 'I didn't say it was not me'
by Beh Lih Yi
Lawyer VK Lingam continued with Day Two of his testimony
before the royal commission into the scandalous judge–fixing video clip,
enduring a day–long grilling by counsel from the Malaysian Bar.
Apart from counsel Ranjit Singh, Lingam was also questioned by the commissioners during the hearing this afternoon on his repeated denials.
Below are highlights from the hearing this afternoon which was filled with a number of Lingam’s ‘quotable quotes’:
Ranjit: You said you talk rubbish when you drink too much. Knowing that, why did you still talk on the judges’ appointment?
Lingam: That was in my house. That was in the privacy of my room. My house is my castle. I am the king there. I can talk whatever rubbish in my house as long as I don’t get drunk outside and misbehave.
Ranjit: Why did you choose the topic of judges’ appointment in the presence of (businessman) Loh Mui Fah?
Lingam: I can choose whatever topic I like. I can even pretend to talk to President Bush if I like.
Ranjit: Why did you tell Loh Mui Fah that you were talking to Ahmad Fairuz (Sheikh Abdul Halim, then chief judge of Malaya)?
Lingam: I don’t recollect I said that but even if I did say it, I am sorry to use the word, I was bullshitting and bragging.
Ranjit: Are you suggesting that you were also bullshitting and bragging in the transcript (of the phone conversation) too?
Lingam: It could be bragging, it could be bullshitting.
Ranjit: Are you relying on the photos to say that you were slightly intoxicated?
Lingam: With (the late lawyer) Manjit (Singh) in the photo, it looks like there were 7–Ups, two bottles of wine, two boxes of whisky, a whisky bottle – that is quite a lot to drink for two, three people for that night.
Ranjit: When you say ‘it looks like’, are you saying it was not real alcohol?
Lingam: As I see it, there were wine bottles and I was seen sipping it from my glass and drinking the wine.
(Ranjit then said he had completed the questioning. Commission chief Haidar Mohd Noor sought clarification from Lingam at this juncture).
Haidar: We have two witnesses Loh Mui Fah and his son (Gwo Burne) (photo, below) who have come forward and testified that it was you (in the clip). Why would they want to come forward (if it was not you)? Can you suggest a reason?
Lingam: I can’t think of a reason.
Haidar: You said they are your social friends. Why would they suddenly go against you?
Lingam: Can I say something Tan Sri (Haidar)? If they believe the clip is true, they wouldn’t have kept it for six years. They would have gone to the ACA (Anti–Corruption Agency) and the police and said, ‘Charge him, investigate’. But they have kept it for six, seven years.
Haidar: Alright, alright, alright...
(Mui Fah’s lawyer Americk Singh Sidhu, then posed a few brief questions to Lingam after which commissioner Mahadev Shankar sought clarification from Lingam).
Mahadev: You don’t dispute the person in the (two) photos (taken by Gwo Burne) is you?
Lingam: I don’t dispute that.
Mahadev: But when it comes to the video taken at the same occasion, you said the person ‘might not be me, it could be me and it could be somebody else...’
Lingam: No, no, no, my learned commissioner you didn’t get me right. I said it looks like me, it sounds like me. I didn’t say it was not me. I don’t want to say it’s 100 percent me because the authenticity of the clip has to be established by my two experts first.
Mahadev: So how many percent looks like you? (Laughter around the room)
Lingam: I don’t want to get into a mathematical debate with my learned commissioner. My experts said the report by the local experts is fundamentally flawed and it’s defective. Let my experts first be called. I am not denying it’s me. If my experts said it’s 100 percent me, I will be the first one to say it.
Haidar: We have an expert’s report and two witnesses here who gave direct evidence (related to the recording of the video).
Lingam: I am not saying it’s not me, please don’t get me wrong. I said it looks like me, it sounds like me. There should be no dispute. I make myself very clear.