KUALA LUMPUR: The court today dismissed the application by former prime minister Najib Razak, who is facing charges of corruption and abuse of power, to attend the ongoing Dewan Rakyat session.
Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali said it is uncertain when voting for motions, bills and constitutional amendments will take place.
“Having considered the arguments for and against the application, it is refused,” he said.
He said the dismissal was not a question of whether the court is stopping Najib, who is Pekan MP, from attending Parliament.
“The accused is an MP but he is also facing several charges,” he said.
The Dewan Rakyat convenes from today until July 18.
The house is to debate, among others, a motion to require MPs and senators as well as their spouses and children to declare their assets, and a bill for the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.
The Pakatan Harapan government is also expected to put forth a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, which will need the support of two-thirds of the 222 MPs.
Najib faces three counts of criminal breach of trust, one charge of abusing his position and three counts of money laundering over SRC International Sdn Bhd funds amounting to RM42 million.
He is also accused of abusing his power as prime minister by giving government guarantees on SRC International’s RM4 billion loan from Retirement Fund Inc.
He was charged with committing the offences at AmIslamic Bank Bhd on Jalan Raja Chulan and the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya between Aug 17, 2011, and Feb 10, 2015.
Deputy public prosecutor Ishak Mohd Yusoff is currently examining the 42nd witness, former SRC International director Suboh Md Yassin.
Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said the application was made today as the Dewan Rakyat agenda was only made public last week.
He said Najib wished to participate in the debate on the declaration of assets as he had been familiar with the subject during his time as prime minister.
“He had also discussed the subject with the then-opposition,” he added.
He said the debate could begin immediately after question time, and that a vote could be taken at any point.
“It is a controversial topic and could continue until midnight.”
He also said any amendment to the constitution would require the cooperation of all MPs as the government has no two-thirds majority of its own.
Shafee acknowledged that Najib is facing criminal charges but said he is entitled to attend the session to fulfil his constitutional oath.
He referred to the late Karpal Singh, a lawyer and MP who had been given permission by the court to attend Dewan Rakyat proceedings.
He said Anwar Ibrahim, who was previously slapped with criminal charges, had also been allowed to attend proceedings while his trial was in progress.
He said the court would be in contempt of Parliament if it prevents a member of the house from attending proceedings.
“Moreover, my client could be disqualified as an MP if he is absent from the house for a continuous six months,” he said, noting that the last sitting was in March while the next will be in October.
Lawyer Kamarul Hisham Kamarudin, who is also on Najib’s defence team, said former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng had been able to attend Dewan Rakyat proceedings last year as well despite facing a graft trial.
However, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas in his rebuttal said the defence had not raised the matter when meeting Nazlan in chambers during the previous case management exercise.
“This trial is going too slowly, and it is a case of national importance,” he said.
He added that while Najib is an MP, he should be treated equally like any other accused in a court of law.
He said Najib could attend the session after the trial ends for the day as debates could continue until midnight.
“The accused has to pay the price. He has to sit in the dock,” he said.
He said the defence had often claimed that Najib would quickly vindicate himself in court, but that it now appeared that it was looking at every opportunity to adjourn the trial.