Oleh: A Kadir Jasin

IRRESPECTIVE of the motives and the truth of Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s sensational Statutory Declaration implicating several top dignitaries in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu its effects can be far-reaching.

Poorly handled it can lead to further unraveling of the Umno power. Properly handled it can provide the party with the means to seek salvation.

For a start, the timing of these new allegations could not have come at a more inappropriate time for the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Government and the party.

The people’s anger with the June 4 fuel price increases is yet to be abated. The talks of further subsidy cuts and hefty consumer price increases are keeping the nerves raw.

In this touchy situation, the people are more willing to believe in the bad news than the good ones – assuming that there are news in the latter category.

[Given the nature of the issue, I appeal to participants of this blog to apply caution and propriety when making comments. We do not want to run foul of the law .]

Some may consider Raja Petra’s sworn allegation as an ultimate quest for truth and justice. Others may think it was a publicity stunt. And there are those who think it was an attempt to bring down the Barisan Nasional Government.

Raja Petra is not new to controversy. His Malaysia Today news portal is well known for publishing what others consider a taboo.

But for him to take this extraordinary course of action – one that can land him in a lot of trouble including imprisonment and fines – he must be convinced of the accuracy of his information.

His allegations gained credibility when the Attorney-General’s Chamber is reported to have lodged a police report accusing him of “criminal defamation.”

Let’s hope that this is not an official attempt to draw the attention away from the subject of Raja Petra’s allegations.

No matter what diversionary actions the government, its legal counsels and propaganda machinery may spin, the fact remains that the Pandora’s box has been pried open and the public has the right to know the truth.

It would appear that Raja Petra’s extreme measure is working. The police had started to “interview” the people named in the declaration.

They were reported to have “interviewed” Rosmah Mansor, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak’s wife and Khairy Jamaluddin, the MP for Rembau and the Prime Minister’s son-in-law.

Raja Petra had also implicated three other persons namely the Prime Minister, a certain acting Colonel Aziz Buyong and his wife, known only as Norhayati.

Abdullah's and Najib's denial of the may not carry the same weight as the web master’s charges because while Raja Petra made his under oath, the Prime Minister and his deputy made theirs as ordinary statements to the press.

Also for Abdullah and Mohd Najib, who have sworn loyalty to each other, the allegations could not have come at a worse time.

Umno is heading towards what is expected to be the most acrimonious leadership elections since the challenge against Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by the Tengku Razaleigh and Musa Hitam in 1987.

The critical branch elections are scheduled to start on July 17 followed by the divisional elections and climaxing in the Supreme Council polls in December.

Unless the contents of Raja Petra’s statutory declaration are satisfactorily debunked – preferably by legal means -- the impact it would have on Umno elections can be far-reaching.