Source: Reprieve plea for jailed Malaysian ex-PM Najib brings ‘challenges’ for Pardons Board

Minderjeet Kaur
Kuala Lumpur
Source: Reprieve plea for jailed Malaysian ex-PM Najib brings ‘challenges’ for Pardons Board Former Prime Minister Najib Razak congratulates Malaysian King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah at Istana Negara, Kuala Lumpur, on the occasion of the latter having completed one year as the sultan of Pahang, in a photograph posted on Najib’s Facebook account on Jan. 9, 2020.
[Via Facebook/najibrazak]

Malaysia’s Pardons Board will soon discuss challenges in dealing with incarcerated ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak’s application for a royal pardon, making it unlikely that a decision will be announced this month – contrary to a media report this week – an associate of his told BenarNews.

A constitutional expert said the board was probably in a quandary over the implications of its decision on the pardon application for ongoing 1MDB corruption cases against the disgraced former PM, who is serving a 12-year sentence for graft in a related case.

At the same time, some Malaysians are also wondering if Najib could get a pardon before the current king steps down, as scheduled for Jan. 31 under the country’s rotational monarchy system.

King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah is from the state of Pahang, which is where Najib cut his teeth in politics. Najib was a state legislator and chief minister of Pahang, after which he was an MP from the state when he was in the federal government as minister, deputy prime minister and prime minister.

Najib’s close associate said the Pardons Board would be meeting this month to finalize its recommendations for those who should receive royal pardons, which will be among the monarch’s last official duties.

“There are a few challenges that need to be looked into. So we are not sure if Najib would be given a pardon yet,” the associate who did not wish to be named because he was not authorized to talk to the media, told BenarNews.

Amid speculation in political circles that the Pardons Board may reduce Najib’s 12-year sentence, the source said that would not happen – if the board were to pardon at all, it would be a full pardon.

“If they were to reduce Najib’s sentence, it may be seen as interfering with the federal court’s decision,” he said.

A constitutional law expert, Bastian Pius Vendargon, confirmed what Najib’s associate said.

Reducing the sentence “is not for the king and the Pardons Board to consider and deal with,” Vendargon told BenarNews. 

Otherwise, the king has the discretion to allow or disallow a pardon application, although he is generally advised by the Pardons Board.

Najib’s pardon application is ‘unique’

Vendargon is sure that the “challenges” the board will be discussing are to do with the five ongoing corruption cases against Najib and how they would be affected by a decision on his application to be pardoned for the one case that he has been convicted and sentenced for. 

The situation related to Najib’s pardon application is “unique,” he said.

“Unique in the sense that this is the first case I have encountered of an inmate appealing for a pardon while facing other court cases,” Vendargon said.

“Cases before the board that we are usually aware of are to do with inmates who no longer have pending trials when they are convicted. Najib, meanwhile, has a few other cases pending while he has been convicted in one case,” he said.

A pardon is granted for a sentence handed down for a specific case. 

For Najib, the 12-year sentence was given on being convicted of abuse of power and other charges tied to the misappropriation of 42 million ringgit (U.S. $9.5 million) from a subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the troubled state investment fund.

Najib was implicated in the 1MDB financial fiasco, in which at least $4.5 billion was looted from the fund. It also brought about then-PM Najib’s downfall in a historic election in 2018.

The imprisoned former PM, 70, Najib is still standing trial on 25 charges of abuse of power and money laundering over five cases, which are connected with 2.3 billion ringgit ($551 million) that went missing from 1MDB.

Then-Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim delivers a speech at a campaign rally ahead of the country’s general elections in Kuala Lumpur, Nov. 16, 2022. [Mohd. Rasfan/AFP]

If Najib is pardoned he can be active in politics again, after being barred due to his conviction. 

Additionally, the pardon could solidify the relationship between unlikely partners Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and Najib’s party UMNO, which supports the PM’s coalition federal government, said political analyst Azmil Hassan.

“If a pardon is granted, it will have a significant impact on the political scenario, as within UMNO, Najib holds substantial influence.”

And the converse would be true as well.

If Najib is not pardoned, it could “create turmoil and uneasiness within UMNO” and the party leaders may try to find a scapegoat, Azmi said.

“In this case, it will be Anwar who was [for a while last year] a member of the Pardons Board,” Azmi said. 

Anwar last year was filling in for the federal territories minister, who is supposed to be one of the members of the board. Because that post had been vacant back then, Anwar represented the administration on the Pardons Board.

However, Anwar last month appointed a federal territories minister and is no longer on the Pardons Board.


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