KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — Imprisoned former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s application to attend Parliament as a Pekan MP has failed, his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah confirmed today.
Shafee said the Prisons Department had last week rejected his client’s application to go to the Dewan Rakyat on grounds of “security”, and said Najib plans to file a lawsuit if the home minister does not respond to his appeal by tomorrow noon.
“So because we have received the rejection from the director-general, we have written an appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin, we have written an appeal but we have yet to get an answer yet.
“If tomorrow by 12 noon, we don’t receive any answer, we are filing for a judicial review,” he told reporters at the court building here.
“This is to correct the wrong decision that we think the prison has made, because we think the reason that they gave, namely grounds of security is not logical, because what I told you, because Parliament is a lot more safer than court,” he added.
Shafee said Najib had written to the Prisons Department’s director-general on September 19 and the rejection was issued last Friday, adding that Najib’s lawyers had then filed the appeal to the home minister on the same day.
“So he should reply, but so far he has not replied, but maybe I sent it last Friday, today is only Monday. So that’s why we are only giving him until tomorrow, because if he doesn’t reply, under normal circumstances we would of course give any ministry longer period, but Parliament is already sitting, time is already short,” he said, adding that the lawsuit would be filed if no reply is given or if an unfavourable one is given.
Asked for the reasons Najib had given the prison authorities in his application to be allowed to attend Parliament, Shafee said the latter remains an MP and that his client had cited Section 31 of the Prison Act.
Shafee claimed that this provision had never been cited before as part of an application to attend Parliament as a prisoner, saying that Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had in the past been reported to have used a different provision in the Prison Act to make such applications.
Under Section 31, the prison commissioner-general has the power to order that a prisoner be taken to any place in Malaysia, if “satisfied that there are reasonable grounds requiring the presence of a prisoner” there or if the prisoner’s presence is required there “for the purpose of any public inquiry”.
“How could there be a security issue in Parliament, the most secure building, so to me that is not logical, not reasonable, in fact I would say irrational,” he said, explaining that this was why a challenge would be mounted through a lawsuit via judicial review.
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court October 3, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Shafee disagreed with the grounds of security cited by the prison authorities in rejecting Najib’s application to attend the Dewan Rakyat meeting for the entire October 3 to November 29 period, claiming that Parliament would have be safer than the court complex here.
“I find grounds of security a bit odd because surely Parliament is a lot safer than the building here, because here it is exposed to the public, when goes to toilet — no doubt escorted — it is a public toilet. He is in the court, the biggest public space, because court is an open court.
“If here as well as the hospital, there is no issue of security, how could there be issue of security in Parliament. Parliament has got their own security and the prison can ensure further security,” Shafee argued.
Shafee said the Dewan Rakyat Speaker had already confirmed that Najib remains an MP, and sending Najib to Parliament would allow him to participate as an MP in the Dewan Rakyat, while also insisting: “How they manage his security is a simple issue of collaboration between Parliament and the prison.”
Shafee said this was an important issue as it would set a precedent for every MP who “gets into trouble”, and said that MPs should be able to perform their functions as MP as long as a decision on whether they are guilty or not have yet to be fully made, noting: “Otherwise why declare them still an MP if it is an empty promise?”
Apart from seeking to attend Parliament and which the prison authorities had already rejected, Shafee said Najib had also asked to be allowed to meet his political aide for matters related to his Pekan constituency and to be escorted from prison “once in a while” to visit Pekan to serve voters there as their MP.
Shafee confirmed that the prison authorities had already replied the first request of attending the Dewan Rakyat by rejecting it, and that the prison had yet to decide on the two other requests to meet his political aide and to visit Pekan as an escorted prisoner.
Asked if Najib’s bid to attend Parliament would be seen as an attempt to delay his ongoing 1MDB trial due to the overlap in dates, Shafee shot back: “It will be a stupid thing for anyone to ask that question, I’m sorry, because it’s silly, you can make an issue out of nothing.”
Shafee said the late Karpal Singh had excused himself from court every day to attend Parliament when it was sitting, saying: “Are you saying Mr Karpal was ponteng mahkamah (skipped court), no and he wasn’t even charged, he was just a lawyer, but he said ‘I’m an MP first, a lawyer second, so every time, they gave him.
“So likewise, my client is still an MP, and you know now the circumstances, Parliament may not last that long — so you will see that time is a bit hard-pressed for us, we need for him to attend because this is the critical moment of Parliament, and what’s the difference? Because he has been attending court almost all the time except for those periods where somehow somebody is sick, he is sick, or Covid whatever, but trial has been proceeding
“So if there’s let’s say 10 days’ delay because he has to attend Parliament, so what? This is a parliamentary duty,” he said.
Asked if Najib would at least arrange to replace the 1MDB trial days if he is allowed to attend Parliament, Shafee said there is already about 30 days of trial lined up for the rest of this year and could not possibly add more dates this year, but said this could be done for next year.
“This year alone 30 more days, that is by arrangement from us, we could have easily say we have this case, that case. We have said these dates we can compromise, we can postpone other smaller cases, so you can see my client and team of lawyers, they are not interested in delaying the case, otherwise we won’t volunteer the dates, we got other cases,” he said.
Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah is currently scheduled to be heard on October 3 to 6, October 11 to 13, November 7 to 10, November 14 to 17, November 21 to 24, December 5 to 8, December 12 to 15, before continuing in January and February next year.
The Dewan Rakyat is scheduled to meet from today to November 29, which means there would be overlaps with Najib’s 1MDB trial.
The full Dewan Rakyat schedule would be October 3 to 7, October 11 to 13, October 17 to 20, October 26 and 27, October 31 to November 3, November 7 to 10, November 14 to 17, November 21 to 24, and November 28 and 29.