By Tan Yi Liang
KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 14, 2009): DAP chairman Karpal Singh today challenged Chief Justice (CJ) Tan Sri Zaki Azmi to sue him for defamation or charge him with criminal defamation if his statements accusing the CJ of corruption are proven to be wrong.
"I dare the Chief Justice to sue me for defamation if he thinks he's right. It's as simple as that. I dare him to sue me, because that is the only way out. One has to go, either he goes or I go," said Karpal.
"If what I have said is not correct, it amounts to criminal defamation, and I can be charged under Section 500 of the Penal Code. I can be fined and be imprisoned. It is a very serious matter to defame the Chief Justice of the country, but I am prepared to take the risk," said Karpal, who spoke to reporters after submitting a letter to Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin on the issue of Zaki's appointment.
"I have written a letter to the King, requesting that there be an emergency meeting of the Conference of Rulers to consider the status of Zaki, and considering what has happened, that the Conference of Rulers revokes its advice (to appoint Zaki)," said Karpal, adding that he was speaking up "in the interest of the people".
"I have to speak up, and I am prepared to take the risk of being sued for defamation, to pay damages. I am prepared to take the risk of going to prison, prepared to take the risk of losing my parliamentary seat or stand for the next general election, and those are the odds against me," he added, saying that the odds were "similar" for Zaki.
He then dismissed an attempt by Zaki to clarify the controversial comments made by him as reported by the New Straits Times last Nov 8.
In his statement, Zaki had been quoted as saying that it took him "six months (as a practicing lawyer) to be nice, to bribe each and every individual to get into their good books before our files were attended to".
Zaki later clarified that the reporter had misinterpreted his statements about corruption.
"He has not denied it. All he has tried to do is make a clarification, but even the clarification condemns him because he says that he was aware of corruption in the court registry in 1987, and that the reporter might have misinterpreted that as him saying that he was involved in corruption. But even that is impossible," said Karpal, adding that Zaki had not sought a retraction or apology from the New Straits Times.
Karpal had previously filed an emergency motion in Parliament last year to debate the statements made by Zaki on Nov 7, which was rejected by Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia on Nov 12 as the house was not allowed to debate the conduct of the judges unless a quarter of the total MPs supported it, as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.
On Nov 26, Karpal managed to get the signatures of 57 Members of Parliament in filing a motion to discuss the conduct of the CJ in the Dewan Rakyat.
He had also sent an open letter to the Prime Minister last Dec 8 and another to the offices of the CJ on Dec 16, calling for the removal or resignation of Zaki.
Karpal had also mentioned on Nov 18 that he had managed to obtain an audio recording of Zaki's admission of corruption.