PERMATANG PASIR, Aug 20 — The controversy surrounding Barisan Nasional candidate Rohaizat Othman’s disbarment took a new twist today when his partner, the one Umno accused of taking their client’s money, appeared to deny the allegation.
Yusri Ishak alleged that the money was used by Rohaizat to help his friend-cum-client to finance a land transaction worth RM 130,000 which was to be reimbursed but the Umno politician’s friend had failed to do so.
Rohaizat then claimed the land, planning to sell it to remit the funds used to purchase it but to no avail, said Yusri, adding that that was one of the reasons why Rohaizat had failed to repay the co-operative.
He also said some of the co-operative funds had been used to help another of Rohaizat’s friends, a director in a housing development company, and also to manage the firm’s branch in Ipoh.
The 38-year-old lost an appeal on Aug 12 against being struck off the rolls of the Malaysian Bar after he blamed his partner for the matter which the Bar Council said involved RM161,000 in client’s money.
Rohaizat is facing PAS’s Mohd Salleh Man Mat Aji in a straight fight for the Permatang Pasir state seat on Aug 25, the country’s eighth by-election since Election 2008.
Umno has dismissed the issue, saying Rohaizat has paid back the money and it is not a criminal case, accusing the opposition of playing up the issue.
Rohaizat was disbarred last year after he was found guilty by the Bar Council’s disciplinary board of misconduct for failing to return the money to the Penang Rubber Smallholders’ Cooperative.
The Bar Council has clarified that Rohaizat had been found guilty of personal misconduct and had lost his appeal against the decision in the High Court last Wednesday, five days before Umno nominated him for the by-election.
The Bar Council’s statement contradicts Rohaizat’s version of the events. The candidate blames his partner in his law firm for committing the misconduct.
His candidacy has become a major embarrassment for Umno as it brings up questions about the party’s vetting process.
Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is in charge of Umno/BN’s campaign in the by-election, has been particularly embarrassed.
Asked yesterday about reports Rohaizat had been the subject of numerous complaints and how he had been fined twice by the Bar Council, the Deputy Prime Minister likened the fines to parking tickets.
He said the Umno campaign was considering having Rohaizat put out a statutory declaration to clear the air on the controversy.
“What Umno and Barisan Nasional information chief Ahmad Maslan said, that I was the one who absconded with the money, is a lie,” Yusri told a press conference here organised by PAS.
Party officials said they were giving Yusri a platform to explain himself.
“It is impossible that Rohaizat is not aware of money flowing in and out of the firm’s account of which he is also a signatory,” said Yusri.
Yusri, who is also a former Umno member, blasted Ahmad for describing Rohaizat as a “hero”, saying that what the BN candidate had done was unethical and morally illegitimate although he is deemed “legally clean” by Umno leaders.
“I think he has high ambitions to be a politician so he did not want to reveal the problems he was having with the Bar Council,” he said.
“So Umno leaders only realised this after nomination so they made me a scapegoat to defend themselves,” Yusri said, adding that the accusation had impacted him and his family and forced him to come out and defend himself.
Yusri, however, said he held no grudges against Rohaizat, whom he described as his close friend, and wished him luck in facing PAS candidate Mohd Salleh Man in the by-election here.
He said he believes Rohaizat was pressured to pin the blame on him.
Asked who he would vote for in the by-election, ironically he said he would opt for his close friend.
Rohaizat’s disbarment has overshadowed other issues in the campaign, with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders hammering home the issue at all its rallies.
PR and PAS leaders are also urging Rohaizat to withdraw as a candidate.-MalaysiaInsider