By Aathi Shankar
Jelutong MP R. Sanisvara Nethaji Rayer is under fire after he decided to defend a man accused of selling birth certificates and MyKads to foreigners.
As a lawyer, Rayer has all the rights to take up the case and defend the man charged with the crime, Datuk Lai Chin Wah in the court of law.
The rule of law is a person will be presumed innocent unless he was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt after an open trial.
But Rayer is not just a lawyer.
He is also an elected parliamentarian of DAP, a major partner in Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, hence a backbencher.
On September 12, Chin Wah was among six others, including a National Registration Department (NRD) assistant director, who was charged with being part of a syndicate that sold false Malaysian birth certificates and MyKads to foreigners.
Lai was also charged with abetting the NRD senior officer in forging the documents.
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has labelled those involved in selling illegal national identification documents as “traitors”.
He damned such scam as a betrayal to the country, a threat to national security and interests.
Muhyiddin’s statement reflects the PH government’s official stand on the criminal issue.
Rayer stand on this issue is ambiguous.
On one hand, he is defending a person charged with illegal sales of identification documents.
On the other, as a backbencher, he represented the same PH government that declared the crime as heinous and a betrayal to the nation.
A clear cut case of conflict of interests.
Is Rayer betraying his own government?
Penang MIC chairman Datuk M. Nyanasegaran has correctly pointed out that Rayer’s decision to be the defence lawyer for Chin Wah “does not make sense politically.”
Indeed Rayer may have created history by becoming the first backbencher MP to defend a person accused of a major crime.
Former DAP national chairman and Bukit Gelugor MP, the late senior lawyer Karpal Singh had defended crime accused during his time.
But that was when he was an opposition MP.
Of course, the Bar Council, which many perceived as a PH-friendly organisation, has argued Rayer’s double representations as not a conflict of interests.
Perhaps the Bar was only looking at the issue from the legal angle.
This is about political convention and morality.
Being a backbencher, Rayer can’t have the best of both worlds.
He can’t wear two hats at the same time.
Certain groups have already held protests against Rayer while some others have called him on to resign from DAP and become an independent MP.
Will he do it?
Doubts linger given that PH and its representatives have never upheld political conventions and morality, which were marks of good governance, since been elected as the federal government in May 2018.
Otherwise, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (Penang Tunnel Scandal) and Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali (Gay Porn Video Scandal) would have resigned by now.
It’s now up to Rayer’s conscience.
Time for the DAP man to make the correct political decision to end this controversy.