Msian PM criticises Sukam for gambling - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Malaysias prime minister on Thursday lambasted a senior ruling party official for chalking up a gambling debt of more than RM7 million (US$1.8 million, euro1.5 million) at a London casino.

Osu Sukam (AFP pic), a former chief minister of the timber-rich Sabah state, incurred the debt when the Ritz Hotel Casino in London allowed him to gamble on credit. The casino later obtained a judgment from a British court to recover the debt, but a Malaysian court ruled Tuesday that the British order cannot be enforced in Malaysia because of lack of jurisdiction.

Despite the court victory, Osus position as a divisional leader in Umno is now in jeopardy.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi indicated that Osus gambling habits were unacceptable to the governing United Malays National Organisation party, saying "political leaders must not be involved in activities which are against the religion."

"We want credible leaders who lead by example," Abdullah told reporters. "In this aspect, it looks like Osu Sukam has failed ... this has tainted his leadership."

Abdullah said Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman, the highest political official of the state, would decide on Osus position soon. Musa was not immediately available for comment. In ruling in favour of Osu, High Court Judge Ian Chin said, "Malaysians must be protected from being enticed to gamble on credit."

"The only way to discourage this entrapment is to prevent such foreign judgment founded on gambling on credit from being registered and from being enforceable in Malaysia," Chin said.

It was not clear when Osu incurred the debt or when the casino had obtained the court order in Britain.

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