KUALA LUMPUR: Whistle-blower Major Zaidi Ahmad has been dishonourably discharged from the armed forces after being found guilty yesterday on two charges of breaking protocol in revealing problems with the indelible ink used in the May 2013 general election.
Before delivering the sentence, military court presiding officer Col Saadon Hasnan said the sentence was not because of the issues Major Zaidi raised regarding the indelible ink, which was found to have washed off after application.
“It is because of the two offences he committed by going against the two standing orders issued by the Air Force’s higher authorities,” said Saadon.
Earlier yesterday, the court ruled that prosecutors had established a prima facie case against Major Zaidi in two out of the seven charges made against him.
The panel led by presiding officer Col Saadon said eight witnesses had been called to the stand since the trial began in May 2013.
“The prosecutors have created a prima facie case against the accused for the second and the third charges and therefore we have found him guilty of these charges,” Col Saadon said.
He earlier announced that Major Zaidi would represent himself in court as the defence counsel “could not attend the proceeding”.
“The defence counsel could not attend the court but the court will still resume,” he said before proceeding to announce the court’s decision.
Major Zaidi was found guilty of breaching two standing orders, that is, speaking to the media without the consent of the Defence Ministry and for sharing confidential information on his transfer order with the media without the consent of the Armed Forces Council under Section 51 of Armed Forces Act 1972.
On Dec 15 last year, the military court hearing the case of Major Zaidi in the indelible ink issue, dismissed a request for a postponement of the case pending a judicial review application, saying the case had dragged on “for so long”.
The panel led by Col Saadon said the authorities had instructed them not to delay the case any longer as much time and money had already been spent.
Defence counsel Nasar Khan Mirbas Khan then informed the panel that Major Zaidi and his defence team would not participate any further in the court martial proceedings as they had chosen to remain silent.
The authorities had previously decided to retain the same panel after hearing an application from the defence to dissolve the bench.
The defence complained that they had discovered that Col Saadon had posted an “unfavourable comment” against the accused in an article in a news portal.
Col Saadon had allegedly responded to a news report by saying that Major Zaidi should be a rubber tapper if he did not like being in the military.
“Fairness has been compromised. Our client doesn’t want the presiding officer on the case to stay,” Hanipa Maidin, the defence’s leading counsel had said in a news report on Nov 5 last year.
The five-member panel then decided to hand the matter to the court martial’s convening authority, as it was the only body that could decide if the panel should be dissolved.
Col Saadon allegedly made the comment using a Facebook account under the name of Saadon Tson.
The comment was in response to an article “Peguam: Kesalahan Mejar Zaidi hanya kerana berani” (Lawyer: Major Zaidi charged for being courageous) published in Malaysiakini in its Bahasa Malaysia section on Oct 20 last year.
The user named Saadon Tson had said: “klu tak nak jd tentera duk kampung motong getah je” (If you don’t want to be in the military, then stay in the village and tap rubber).
Hanipa said the comment was noticed after Major Zaidi had lodged a complaint with the commander of the Air Force Division at its headquarters in Sungai Besi.
The authorities recently decided to retain the panel for the case after hearing the defence submission on the matter. — The Malaysian Insider
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on January 13, 2015.