The French judiciary will be calling witnesses to a judicial inquiry over the Scorpene submarine scandal “very soon”, said Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suaram) secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel.

suaram scorpene case fundraising dinner 160612 cynthia gabriel 1“The French judiciary is still working on the process of calling witnesses for testimonies and investigations and we expect that the witnesses will be called in very, very soon.

“Suaram is waiting for the signal from the judge to reveal the time and the list of names of the people who will be called in,” Cynthia (right) told Malaysiakini last night.

She said that seven Malaysian witnesses are expected to be called, subject to the judge’s decision, starting from those “central to the negotiations” for the submarine deal such as Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s close associate Abdul Razak Baginda.

When asked whether Najib, as the then defence minister, would be subpoenaed, she said Najib enjoys some immunity as a head of (government) because the French are not keen to strain diplomatic ties unless there are strong suspicions against him.

However, she added that Najib will be moved up the list of witnesses “very quickly” if he is no longer the prime minister after the next general election.

azlan“I know the famous question in Malaysia is when will Najib be subpoenaed, but that will take its course,” she said.

The process of calling and examining witnesses is expected to take two years. Suaram was the original complainant who had triggered the probe.

Cynthia was responding to questions after a candlelight vigil held to show solidarity for Suaram, which has recently been investigated by several government agencies.

Vigil organiser: More groups will take Suaram's place

The vigil’s organiser, Ng Yap Hwa, said this was clearly a case of political prosecution as Suaram had not been harassed in such a manner in its almost 20 years of existence until the Scorpene scandal began.

He also told Malaysiakini that he is not affiliated to Suaram, but had been participating in its activities over the past decade and could not stand the government’s “unreasonable” actions against Suaram.

“We want to tell the government even if they can take out Suaram today, more civil society groups will rise up to continue the pursuit for the truth in the Scorpene scandal and justice for Altantuya Shaariibuu (the alleged translator for the Scorpene deal who was murdered),” said Ng when addressing the crowd.

NONEThe vigil, dubbed ‘Scorpene never dies’, drew over 100 participants to Dataran Merdeka since 8pm.

Tens of Kuala Lumpur City Hall enforcement officers and police personnel were seen keeping watch from about 30 metres away, but did not interfere.

Much of the 90-minute event was spent listening to representatives from various NGOs give words of support and encouragement to Suaram.

These include representatives from the Bukit Koman Ban Cyanide Committee, Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (Dema), Lawyers for Liberty, Occupy Dataran Movement, Komas, the Bar Council Human Rights Committee and the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Human Rights Committee.

'Suaram not alone'

Also speaking that night were human rights lawyer Edmund Bon, Subang MP and Suaram founder Sivarasa Rasiah and Kelana Jaya MP Loh Gwo-Burne.

When speaking to the crowd, Suaram chairperson K Arumugam said he was very encouraged by the participants’ presence.

“We are really overwhelmed by your support and presence today.

“Suaram is not alone today, and it was never alone before. It is actually your voice we are representing, it is ‘suara rakyat Malaysia’ (Voice of the Malaysian people in Malay, also Suaram’s full name),” he said.

Besides speeches and candles, participants also held banners and occasionally chanted slogans such as “Long live the people”, “Long live Suaram”, and “Stop prosecution” and sang the song “Suara Rakyat”.

Among the banners and placards read “Stand up for Suaram”, “Rise with Suaram”, and “Janji ditepati, Suaram dimusuhi? (Promises delivered, Suaram villified?).

The night ended with Cynthia reassuring participants that regardless of what happens to Suaram, the inquiry in France would continue.