Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bala could face perjury charge

The Star
by Chelsea L.Y. Ng, Manjit Kaur and Andrea Filmer

PETALING JAYA: A statutory declaration is evidence given under oath which cannot be retracted, said a serving judge and several senior members of the legal fraternity.

They believed private investigator P. Balasubramaniam’s act of retracting his initial declaration, which made serious accusations against Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, could open the former to perjury charges.

According to the judge, who is an authority in criminal law, affirming a statutory declaration was akin to giving evidence in court.

“Under the normal rule of evidence, one cannot withdraw it unless he has very strong reasons. Those reasons must be included in the withdrawal or else he would be committing perjury,” he said.

He said if one was citing duress as a reason for making false accusations in a statutory declaration, he must present proof of such pressure.

“He must show that the pressure was serious like it’s life-threatening to him or his family members.

“He cannot just say that he is withdrawing the statutory statement because he had earlier been forced to do it. Someone can now lodge a police report against him and he could face a perjury charge,” he said.

Balasubramaniam announced yesterday that he had retracted the entire content of his statutory declaration that alleged police had omitted vital information in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case barely 24 hours after he made it public on Thursday.

Bar Council chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said a statutory declaration was basically evidence on oath that, once given, could not be retracted.

She, however, said a person could add or correct the statutory declaration to file a further declaration.

“Because it is evidence on oath, and if there are untrue statements, then there is the possibility of a person having given a false statement.”

Bar Council’s criminal law committee deputy chairman Datuk V. Sithambaran said that under the law, two inconsistent statements meant that a person had most likely committed perjury.

“Such an act under the case law suggests that a person is guilty of perjury,” he said.

Senior lawyer Roger Tan said once a statutory declaration was made it could not be cancelled midway because it was a sworn statement of fact.

Tan said Section 3 of the Statutory Declarations Act 1960 provided that a false declaration was punishable.

Veteran lawyer Karpal Singh said the retraction amounted to an offence under Section 193 of the Penal Code.

“Under the section, making a false statutory declaration carries the penalty of not more than seven years' imprisonment or fine or both,” said the DAP chairman.

He also urged the private eye to make public the nature of the alleged duress.

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