The argument that since Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is not in the federal government and does not have the authority to interfere in his trial proceedings is simplistic, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan.
He was responding to PKR vice-presidents Nurul Izzah Anwar and Tian Chua who said there was no need for Lim to step aside in view of the twin corruption charges against him.
Abdul Rahman said while it is true Lim is not in the federal government, he is however still the head of the ruling government in Penang where the alleged abuse of power and corruption took place.
"Given the nature of the charges, it is almost certain that documents and witnesses from the state government which the accused leads will be referred to and called in the trial.
"It could turn out to be a situation where witnesses may be required to testify against their boss who is still in power.
"Such unnecessary pressure on the witnesses is certainly not conducive to a free and fair trial," he added in a media statement today.
Abdul Rahman also dismissed Nurul’s contention that the charges against Lim is a political conspiracy meant to "take out opposition leaders".
"If we were to subscribe to this blanket excuse then this essentially suggests that opposition leaders who have committed crime can never be charged since charging them will always be considered a political conspiracy meant to take them out," he said.
Commenting on the case against Lim and the controversial bungalow purchase, Abdul Rahman asked "how many of us" had been offered to buy a multi-million ringgit property that is up to 60 percent off the market price?
"None of these supposed fighters for 'keadilan' (justice) have addressed whether there was a benefit to the tune of millions of ringgit from buying a property that is well below JPPH (evaluation and property service department) and market value.
"None of these opposition leaders seem to be able to point out that there is a conflict of interest when a public servant has transacted on a personal basis with a person who has business links with the state government which he leads," he added.
Last week, Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, was charged under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 and Section 165 of the Penal Code.
Also charged was businesswoman Phang Li Khoon who sold the bungalow to Lim.
The two have claimed trial and are currently out on bail.