The sudden release of Sirul Azhar Umar from Villawood Immigration Detention Centre on November 8 after the Australian High Court decision to free all indefinite immigration detainees, has put the issue of Altantuya back in the headlines once again.
Former Unit Tindakan Khas (UTK) or elite special action officer Sirul, who was convicted of Altantuya’s murder, along with Azilah Hadri, now claims his innocence in an interview on Al-Jazeera 101 East, claiming he was ordered by a high-up authority, but didn’t take part in the murder and pleaded for a chance to live as a free man in Australia.
Sirul has been portrayed as a violent and coldblooded killer in the Australian media, where the Australian government is under public pressure to deport him back to Malaysia as soon as possible.
However, with Sirul convicted of the murder with a death penalty still in force, Australia will not be able to deport him.
No one in the political elite wants Sirul to return to Malaysia, as there are too many incriminating questions that must be answered about who gave the order for Azilah and Sirul to murder Altantuya.
In addition, Sirul’s latest interview indicated that he is still hiding many things. Perhaps, the truth would be clearer if Sirul’s statutory declaration to the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) was made public, where he disclosed his story to Australian authorities when applying for a protection visa.
This document should be in the public domain of legal data, but is mysteriously missing from the Australian government website.
Catch 22 situation
For Sirul to be returned to Malaysia, the government must commute the death sentence to life in prison.
For his death sentence to be converted to life in prison, Sirul must apply to the court. Alternatively, Sirul or his next of kin can apply directly to the King for a royal pardon
Given that Sirul has expressed his will to remain in Australia, there is no incentive to make application, thus creating a catch 22 to his benefit.
The need for a Royal Commission
The crucial question that must be answered is, who ordered the murder of Altantuya?
There are indirect pieces of evidence that point to Najib Razak, who was deputy prime minister at the time, and Musa Safri, who was Najib’s aide-de-camp. Others claim Rosmah ordered the murder.
We are still no closer to the truth.
There was no apparent motive given for Azilah and Sirul. Azilah and Sirul had never met Altantuya before the murder.
Razak Baginda was acquitted without the need to put in a defence. Musa was not even called as a witness in the trial.
In the recent Al-Jazeera interview, Sirul claims he was made a scapegoat to protect higher people and was paid RM1 million to keep quiet on the issue.
Hasnal Rezua Merican, Sirul’s former lawyer, claimed after Sirul’s interview went to air that it was not truth he paid Sirul RM1 million.
So, how was Sirul’s son able to buy an Audi car he has been seen driving around Canberra? In any case, Sirul would not be entitled to keep the RM1 million as the money is a proceed of a crime.
Other questions also remain. What happened to Perumal Balasubramaniam (PI Bala), the private investigator?
PI Bala was relocated to India by a close friend of Rosmah, Deepak Jaikishan. PI Bala had a sudden heart attack and died soon after he claimed that a retracted statutory declaration was correct.
The most perplexing issue was why Najib’s aid-de-camp Musa Safri, who was closest to Najib and responsible for security, was not called as a witness in the trial of Azilah and Sirul?
The final question is why the current home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has not taken any action on requests to extradite Sirul back to Malaysia? He has also made no statement on the subject.
Given all these half-truths, denials and lies, the execution of the crime and the subsequent cover-ups, an RCI is the only option to find out who the real perpetrators of the crimes are, and for the integrity of justice to be upheld.
This is why a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) must be called to put all the above matters to rest.
However, such an RCI would open up too many closets.
(Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 40 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic and researcher. He was an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Perlis.)