Prime minister is not a public official, court told

Hafarizam-HarunKUALA LUMPUR: Lawyers for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is facing a suit over claims of abuse of power in office, have argued their client is not a public official within the meaning of the Federal Constitution.

Lawyer Mohamed Hafarizam Harun said Article 132 (3) (a) states that politicians are excluded as public officials.

He said officials in the public service were civil servants in the states and in Putrajaya, members of the armed forces, judicial and legal services, policemen and those in the education services.

Hafarizam said the interpretation provision in Article 160 (2) further states that a member of the administration in Putrajaya is meant to be a person holding the office of minister, deputy minister, parliamentary secretary or political secretary.

“In accordance with the provision, Prime Minister Najib Razak is a member of the administration but not a public official.”

He spoke to reporters after proceedings in chambers to strike out a suit brought by Dr Mahathir Mohamad and two vocal critics of Najib, Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Anina Saadudin.

Hafarizam said lead counsel Cecil Abraham made the submission before Justice Abu Bakar Jais.

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, in his reply, said his clients’ action was based on the common law principle of misfeasance in public office which focused on the act or conduct, not the person.

He said the court needed to ask whether the conduct was in relation to public or private affairs.

“The complaint of my clients is that of Najib ‘s conduct. The prime minister performs a public duty when he discharges his function under the constitution or any federal law.”

In their statement of claim filed last March, the trio said they were among the rightful parties to take the action against Najib.

They traced the chronology on the 1MDB investigations, dating back to March 2015, the formation of a special task force, to then attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail’s dismissal, and former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s sacking.

“We say that the chronology leads to the irresistible and undeniable conclusion on the manner in which Najib has continuously interfered with the due process of the law to ensure all the relevant authorities could not continue to carry out and conclude the necessary investigations pertaining to his alleged misconduct over the RM2.6 billion donation and RM42 million from SRC International,” the trio said.

They are also compelling Najib to return to the government the money found in his private bank accounts.