By Teoh El Sen
PETALING JAYA: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has blamed Apco Worldwide, the contentious public relations consultant commissioned by the Barisan Nasional government, for the "unjust" suspension of four parliamentarians including himself.
"Because of Apco, four MPs have been suspended without due process. We need an explanation not only from Umno leaders but Apco as well," he told reporters here today.
The Permatang Pauh MP and PKR de facto leader said if Apco was a professional body as it claimed, then it should not "be a party to the crimes perpetrated by the Umno regime".
"I would like to address this specifically to Apco. You claim to be an independent body, then why are you involved in the politics of Malaysia?
"I urge them (Apco) to stop their political campaign. How can they be a competent company when they defend a corrupt system and the cruel actions (of the BN government)?
"Apco should also take responsibility for what happened," said Anwar.
Anwar together with MPs Karpal Singh (Bukit Gelugur), R Sivarasa (Subang) and Mohd Azmin Ali (Gombak) were yesterday suspended for six months from Parliament.
The suspension was meted out in regard to a statement by Anwar which was deemed "misleading".
During a parliamentary debate in March this year, Anwar had alleged that Apco was previously involved with hardline former Israeli leader Ehud Barak's One Israel campaign.
He also produced documentary evidence to substantiate his allegation that 1Malaysia was taken from One Israel. Apco, however, denied the allegations.
According to Anwar, the reason he brought up the Apco issue was simply to expose the hypocrisy of Umno.
"For more than a decade, during elections, I have been demonised as being a pro-Jew, a Jewish tool or agent, for having Jewish friends.
"I have no qualms about that, because I have consistently said that Jews or Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs, are all my friends. I choose to agree and disagree with them on a number of issues.
"I wanted to show the hypocrisy of the Barisan Nasional government; they go to the Muslim villages and condemn me for being pro-Jew and shame me.
"And yet they themselves enter into an agreement with a company that I have proven to have affiliations with Israel.
"More than that, the company also has links with those connected with the Israeli Shin Bet (security agency), Israeli intelligence and Israeli defence force security," he said.
Anwar, however, clarified that he was not against anyone having working relations with a Jewish company.
"I have no problems with that. I just wanted to show the contradiction and hypocrisy on the part of Umno leaders."
Anwar also claimed Apco had lied several times during its responses and that the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee should not have simply taken the word of the company based on a single letter.
Anwar said he made his accusations against Apco based on documents and investigations.
"In a few Apco statements, they had at first denied that they had any links with Israel. But they later retracted them.
"Then there was a new letter which tried to explain that the first statement was made because it was partnered with ASERO Worldwide.
"But I bring today documents showing the agreement between the government of Israel and Apco."
Anwar said the evidence in his hands proved his case and that the government "cannot lie" about Apco's involvement.
"What's the issue? They have no issue actually. I had no issues. I merely wanted to prove that Umno had accused us of being evil for working with Jews but they themselves were working with a company linked to Israel and it's no ordinary business," he said.
Responding to allegations that he (Anwar) had been given more than enough time to defend himself against the suspension, Anwar said he was never given a single chance to defend himself.
Meanwhile, Karpal Singh said that he was "serious" about bringing the matter to court and was looking forward to facing Parliament Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia there.
"Action against the Speaker will be filed very soon. I am hoping to see the Speaker in court.
"I am surprised Nazri (Minister in the PM's Department Nazri Abdul Aziz) said decisions made in the Dewan Rakyat cannot be questioned. But there are a few precedents like the Zambry and Gobind Singh's cases.
"The decision of the Dewan Rakyat can be questioned in court... Nazri has called me a third-class lawyer... well I may be third class but that man has no class," he said.
Karpal said that it was elementary to provide someone an opportunity to be heard and cited a Pakistani case.
He said such rights originated from Islamic law which was acknowledged in the Quran itself.
He added that another issue was that in the motion that was passed by Parliament to suspend the four yesterday, the wording on the notice read "dismissed from duties as a Member of Parliament".
"I don't think Parliament has the jurisdiction to do that. We can only be suspended from service to the House and what was written here goes beyond the rules of natural justice. This dismissal from duties, we will also take up in court," he said.
Meanwhile, Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar said that what happened in Parliament was akin to two characters in a P Ramlee film called Ali Baba Bujang Lapok.
"There was a character called chief and there's a 'sergeant pendek' who follows 'the chief's' instruction.
"He has a dice that only has the number 2 on it. It was similar to what happened yesterday. No matter what we said, he (the Speaker) had already made up his mind.
"Yesterday, he made decisions on the spot without calling for any of their defence and he could not deliberate on that, or else his 'number 2 die' would be exposed," he said.
Mahfuz said that with the suspensions, people had lost faith in Parliament and this would further affect the economy of the country.
He said he would be bringing up the matter with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the European Union.