PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has expressed deep disappointment over the decision of the Federal Territories Pardons Board to remit the sentence passed by the courts on former prime minister Najib Razak, asking if the exercise of mercy has robbed the nation of justice.
In a statement released late yesterday, Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah also contended that as a result of the decision, the unity government “has lost its moral authority to address the public and to purportedly defend their fight against corruption”.
“While it is true that justice must be tempered with mercy, it is also true that mercy must not rob justice,” Cheah said in the statement.
She said the pardon had disproportionately reduced the courts’ decision to punish Najib with a prison term of 12 years and a fine of RM210 million.
Cheah pointed out that the SRC International case, which saw Najib being hauled before the judiciary to answer for his “egregious crimes against the nation”, took four long years across all levels of the superior courts.
“Much judicial time, taxpayers’ expenses and costs were expended to ensure justice was meted out by the judiciary in imposing punishments that fit the crimes committed by Najib,” she said.
Cheah said the Federal Court’s decision dismissing Najib’s final appeal on Aug 23, 2022, was a message to the world that Malaysia was not afraid to bring to heel all those who break the law, regardless of their station or status in life.
“It was a message that Malaysia was committed to good governance and upholding the rule of law.
“It was a message that perpetrators of such crimes against the nation should not be spared so easily for the huge debts incurred that would eventually be passed on and undertaken by the citizens of Malaysia.
“It was a message that brought credibility to the administration of justice in the country and to the Malaysian judiciary,” the statement said.
Cheah claimed the Pardons Board had given Najib singular and preferential treatment and that the decision had put enormous doubt in the eyes of citizens of Malaysia as well as the world, and the Madani government’s commitment to upholding the rule of law and to eradicating corruption.
“The reduction of Najib’s sentence and fine was abhorrently disproportionate to the gravity of the crime committed by him,” the statement said, adding that it has “greatly (diminished) the due process and administration of justice in Malaysia.”
Cheah also said that it was the Bar’s position that under the Federal Constitution, the exercise of the power to grant pardons vested in the King must be exercised on advice and that the King shall accept in accordance with such advice.
“The issuance of the announcement under the Prime Minister’s Department is rather telling of the role the executive played in the Pardons Board,” said Cheah.
She said it was disturbing that the government has chosen to curb freedom of speech by silencing dissent, using the convenient excuse that the Pardons Board’s announcement concerns 3R (religion, race and royalty) issues.
The case “highlights the need for reforms to our institutions, so as to provide safeguards and re-establish its credibility,” Cheah said, adding that there was a need to reduce, if not eliminate, the role of the government in the Pardons Board and to appoint independent persons to ensure inclusivity in terms of expressions from the public.
Najib, 70, was tried, and on July 28, 2020, convicted in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on seven counts of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust involving RM42 million in funds belonging to SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.
His conviction and sentence were subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeal on Dec 8, 2021 and by the Federal Court the following year.
On Feb 2, Pardons Board announced the decision to halve Najib’s jail term and reduce the fine imposed on him to RM50 million, subject to a condition that if it remains unpaid, the former prime minister would be liable to spend an additional year behind bars.