KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — A royal pardon for Datuk Seri Najib Razak now would be premature as the ex-prime minister was still facing four ongoing criminal cases, Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah said today.
She also said that while Najib was entitled to apply for the pardon, granting him one so soon after he began his imprisonment would make a mockery of Malaysia’s criminal justice system and rule of law.
“It is the Malaysian Bar’s position that a full pardon so early on would be perceived as premature since the former prime minister is still facing numerous charges of money laundering and criminal breaches of trust.
“A dangerous precedent would be set if a royal pardon is in fact granted in this case, as it will appear that those who held powerful executive positions in the past and are still facing similar criminal charges before the courts are above the law or beyond reproach,” Cheah said.
Cheah said that since the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal broke in 2015, the country’s reputation has become synonymous with corruption and spotlighted the severity of power abuse.
But the Federal Court’s decision on August 23, 2022 to send Najib to prison restored the public’s faith in the judiciary and the rule of law, she said.
“Throughout the entire saga, it is pertinent to note that the former prime minister has yet to demonstrate remorse for his actions.
“Notwithstanding the multiple occasions to portray himself as a victim throughout the proceedings at the Federal Court, whether through challenges on legal representation or seeking the recusal of the Chief Justice of Malaysia, the Malaysian Bar takes the view that bestowing a royal pardon on him would directly go against the Federal Court’s decision and provide a form of impunity.
“Again, simply put, this would make a mockery of the conviction and sentence meted out by an independent judiciary,” she said.
Referring to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the late Datuk Mokhtar Hashim, and the late former Selangor chief minister Datuk Harun Idris, Cheah pointed out that previous recipients of royal pardons had served a substantial portion of their prison sentence before release.
As such, she said Najib — who has only served less than a month with a significant portion of it in courtrooms and hospitals — should serve more of his sentence before his application should be considered.
“While the former prime minister is well entitled to seek a royal pardon, it is the Malaysian Bar’s view that he is not deserving of such clemency from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, at this juncture,” she said.
Najib is currently serving his 12-year prison sentence at the Kajang Prison after a five-judge panel at the Federal Court upheld his conviction of stealing RM42 million from SRC International Sdn Bhd.
A royal pardon falls under Article 42(1) of the Federal Constitution, which gives the Agong or Sultan the powers to grant a pardon or reprieve to a convict.
Anwar’s full pardon was granted to him when Pakatan Harapan won the 14th general election in 2018, a request made by then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Retired chief justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad said that Anwar’s release had set a precedent that royal pardons could be for political reasons.