Aide: ‘Busy’ ex-DPM Zahid not careless despite signing letter without knowing content

·6-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi signed a reappointment letter without checking its contents as he was “busy” with his duties as deputy prime minister and not for a lack of care, his aide told the High Court today.

Ahmad Zahid’s former press secretary, Maj Gen (Rtd) Datuk Fadzlette Othman Merican Idris Merican, said this while testifying as the second defence witness in his trial involving 47 charges.

Fadzlette’s court testimony today criticised the work ethic of Ahmad Zahid’s former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly, and accused her of insubordination for refusing to obey the orders of superiors including Fadzlette.

Mazlina was a key witness for the prosecution in this trial. Both Mazlina and Fadzlette were in the past seconded from the army to respectively serve as press secretary and executive secretary for Ahmad Zahid when he was home minister and deputy prime minister.

To illustrate how Mazlina allegedly acted on her own and went against the need for military officers to follow the chain of command, Fadzlette cited an example where a military photographer named Private Salina was restored to duty in the deputy prime minister’s office.

Fadzlette said she had removed Salina from the deputy prime minister’s office due to disciplinary issues and reassigned her back to the Defence Ministry, but Mazlina later issued a letter signed by Ahmad Zahid and addressed to the Malaysian Armed Forces for Salina’s reinstatement.

Fadzlette said Mazlina had done so without discussing with her first.

“After that, I asked Datuk Seri Zahid about the letter and he told me that he did not notice the content of the letter as Major Mazlina had brought in the letter together with several other letters that also had to be signed by him,” she said.

While conceding she did not have the letter that was also not produced in court, Fadzlette confirmed she had seen this letter signed by Ahmad Zahid as it was shown to her by a Defence Ministry official in the past.

Asked by deputy public prosecutor Abdul Malik Ayob, Fadzlette disagreed with suggestions that Ahmad Zahid was careless, not meticulous, or not thorough.

Malik: But this letter can be signed without knowing the content?

Fadzlette: Datuk Seri Zahid is a deputy prime minister, he is very busy; I believe whatever letters that comes from the staff had been checked and discussed at the staff level. For this, I believe Datuk Seri Zahid believes Major Mazlina had obtained views from me or from the SUSK (senior private secretary).

Malik then suggested that it would not be reasonable for Ahmad Zahid to sign this letter without knowing the letter’s contents since he is meticulous and thorough, but Fadzlette disagreed.

Maj Gen (Rtd) Datuk Fadzlette Othman Merican Idris Merican (right) exits from the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, September 12, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Maj Gen (Rtd) Datuk Fadzlette Othman Merican Idris Merican (right) exits from the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, September 12, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Maj Gen (Rtd) Datuk Fadzlette Othman Merican Idris Merican (right) exits from the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, September 12, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Asked if the decision to bring Salina back was Ahmad Zahid’s decision since the letter was signed by him as deputy prime minister at the time, Fadzlette said she does not know.

Agreeing that she was the one who had terminated Salina’s services at the deputy prime minister’s office, Fadzlette said she was angry when Salina was reinstated as this meant an undisciplined person was taken back.

Confirming that there had been instances where she was personally late to work due to having to wait for Salina, Fadzlette said she had been angry as punctuality is very important in military ethics.

But when asked if the restoring of Salina to the deputy prime minister’s office as a photographer had resulted in Fadzlette being angry towards Mazlina, Fadzlette merely replied that she was of the view that Mazlina had to discuss the matter with her first.

Earlier today, Fadzlette had explained that she used her official vehicle to travel from the Defence Ministry’s camp at Jalan Padang Tembak in Kuala Lumpur to the Home Ministry in Putrajaya, and that Salina who was living in the same camp had asked to be allowed to travel daily in Fadzlette’s vehicle to go to work at the Home Ministry.

Fadzlette said she had agreed to give Salina a lift for their daily travel to the office out of compassion, but said Salina should have been disciplined as a military officer who was “never punctual”. Fadzlette said she terminated Salina’s duties at the deputy prime minister’s office due to tardiness and subpar work as a photographer.

Among other things, Fadzlette disagreed that she had a “bad feeling” towards Mazlina, also disagreeing that she had been angry or felt dissatisfied towards Mazlina for not following her orders.

Fadzlette also said Mazlina had been insubordinate towards her orders for more than 10 times during the 2011 to 2018 period, but said she had not been angry towards Mazlina over her alleged insubordination and merely wanted to correct her as her senior officer.

Saying that insubordination is a big offence within the army, Fadzlette confirmed she did not make any formal complaints to the Malaysian Armed Forces and only informed Ahmad Zahid’s senior private secretary who was Mazlina’s direct boss.

Fadzlette also explained that she was the most senior military officer in the Home Ministry and was responsible for advising Mazlina over her alleged insubordination, and said she would try to resolve such problems of insubordination at the Home Ministry level and would only have to report to the army if the problem could not be controlled.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow, with the prosecution expected to continue cross-examining Fadzlette.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to RM31 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges over the receiving of RM21.25 million in alleged bribes.

Ahmad Zahid is a trustee and later became the sole signatory of cheques for Yayasan Akalbudi, a foundation formed to eradicate poverty and help the poor.

Ahmad Zahid and his lawyers have sought to pin the blame on his former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly over the use of Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for purposes such as paying the credit card bills.

The 12 counts of criminal breach of trust is in relation to the alleged misappropriation of Yayasan Akalbudi funds, including RM1.3 million via 43 cheques for his and his wife’s credit card bills, RM107,509.55 via three cheques for vehicle insurance and road tax for 20 privately-owned vehicles, a RM1.3 million cheque to the police’s football association, a RM10 million cheque for a loan to Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd, RM360,000 via two cheques to political consultancy firm TS Consultancy & Resources, and over RM17.9 million of funds transferred from Yayasan Akalbudi to law firm Lewis & Co.