Looks Like Najib’s ‘Pardon’ Just Backfired?

The fate of the four others who applied for Pardons on 29th January appears not to have been sufficiently significant to announce to the Malaysian public alongside the early reduction of the punishment meted out to the former prime minister.

Likewise the petition of one Azilah Hadri, who was acting as bodyguard to Najib when he and his underling Sirul sped from the then defence minister’s residence to where Najib’s translator, Altantuya Shaariibuu, stood threatening to spill the beans over a separate theft, and murdered her.

In that petition, filed back in 2019, Azilah claimed he had performed the act under the direct orders of Najib who had called Altantuya a foreign spy. Over in Australia, Sirul separately testified the same thing in his own deposition seeking clemency.

Indeed, the Appeal Court in Malaysia had previously freed both men from their original convictions on the basis the prosecution had failed to identify any motive for what the two men did to a complete stranger, whilst in the middle of a security detail for Najib.

Despite being thus let off, their death sentences were later re-applied in Kafkaesk Malaysian style after judges changed their minds again with a Federal Court ruling overturning that acquittal – apparently the guards had been incentivised by a payment and had undoubtedly committed the crime.

As to who commissioned that crime and incentivised it is a matter that has never been brought before the courts and the fate of Azilah’s pardon plea remains unannounced.

It is an embarrassing truth therefore that in Malaysia, despite the constitution and a democratic system, not all are equal before the law. That will not happen until the culture of the country ceases to permit certain figures to act as though sacrosanct no matter what they do.

However, slowly that process is underway. The success of the radical Islamic party at the last election owed not just to the funds it had soaked up thanks to propping up the previous coup but to a widespread popular disgust over Najib’s proven corruption in a court of law that moved millions of votes from UMNO.

Najib’s powerful friends in the establishment and his weakened former party have rallied to press for clemency, but to spring the crook PM entirely has in the event proven  politically impossible and wrecked huge damage on its proponents.

Rarely can a single man be held so personally responsible for the utter demise of a major political party based on a decades long tradition of ‘money politics’.

Smart Strategy?

So, has the massive expenditure of political capital by UMNO and Anwar, as the coalition leader who bowed to compromise, been worth it?

The favour to Najib compared to the harshness of Malaysia’s penal system for lesser folk has infuriated the sense of common justice throughout the land. The increasingly isolated navel gazers from UMNO have fanned the fury even further by grossly thanking Anwar for allowing Najib to jump the queue with an early request denied to others.

Anwar plainly did so because of their political pressure and to royal pressure which in Malaysia cannot be ignored. Yet, thanks to the roar of public opinion, that compromise  neither served to free Najib nor to assuage his guilt.

His lawyer Shaffee Abdullah had made clear those were the objectives:

“As lawyers, we are more anxious about our client’s position considering his sole ground for his request for pardon was on the basis that he had never received a fair trial, especially in the final leg of his appeal at the Federal Court. Our client therefore should not spend a day in prison..”

Najib’s UMNO cheerleaders have just crassly acknowledged the same forlorn hope, now rebuffed. As an UMNO Vice President put it:

“we still respect the decision even though the desire to see the former prime minister get a full pardon did not come true.”

Najib most certainly did not get the “full pardon” (indicating innocence of top of a waving of sentence.

Rather, despite the cut in sentence, the pardon has emphatically confirmed his guilt, proving that even his family friend, the departing King, on the advice of his pardons board, could not bring himself to accept that Najib was innocent of what he had been accused of or to suggest he should not be punished by further time in jail.

The outcome of this ‘pardon’ is to confirm everyone has agreed that Najib is guilty and that  includes the departing King.

This being so, the wisdom of Najib’s lawyers and political cheerleaders in seeking this early hearing, just as an even bigger trial based on the same patterns of behaviour and misdeeds is coming to a close, is questionable.

No one has bought his lies and unsubstantiated claims over the SRC conviction, as even his best most powerful friends have just confirmed.

Surely, given the popular outrage, the view of the King and conclusions of the court, it would be even more politically impossible for government prosecutors to drop the years long trial over 1MDB now than it was before?

Having failed to get their prisoner out of jail, Najib’s ever-resourceful lawyers appear to have only succeeded in cornering him further still, with the prospect of new jail sentences on top of the old – post-pardon.

Had Najib waited, a more comprehensive settlement might have been aspired to further down the road. No politician with a sense of self-preservation will move to favour him again this side of an election.

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