Thinking the Unthinkable: Setting Malaysia’s Kingmaker Free
Moves afoot to spring the architect of the biggest scandal in the country’s history
By: Dennis Ignatius
Is Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim colluding with the United Malays National Organization to free former prime minister Najib Tun Razak from jail?
It might have been far-fetched a few months ago but recent developments appear to suggest that something nefarious might be afoot. Both the former attorney-general who charged Najib, as well as the high court judge who convicted him, have come under sustained attack with a view to discrediting them. Aspersions have also been cast on other judges as well. The chief justice has received death threats.
Even from captivity in Kuala Lumpur’s Kajang Prison, Najib remains arguably one of the country’s most influential political figures. UMNO’s objective is clear enough: to persuade the public that although he was found guilty and his sentence upheld by the highest court in the land, he is an innocent victim, a man who was targeted and then railroaded by the justice system as part of some grand conspiracy to destroy UMNO and by extension, Malay political power.
Don’t for one minute believe that all this is being done because they believe Najib is innocent; the evidence is just too overwhelming for that. This mass hoax about Najib’s innocence is being perpetrated because UMNO is desperate enough to believe that freeing Najib will result in a massive outpouring of sympathy and support for UMNO. It’s not about justice; it’s about power and politics.
That there is high-level collusion going on behind the scenes is no longer in doubt. Revelations that Azalina Othman Said, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) had written to Najib’s lawyers confirming that a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigation had found Justice Nazlan Ghazali (the judge who presided over Najib’s SRC case) to be in conflict of interest and had violated the Judges’ Code of Ethics, makes this very clear.
What game is the MACC playing by sharing its reports with Azalina? Such reports are normally submitted to the AG for further action, not shared with politicians. And what reason can Azalina have to divulge such information to Najib’s lawyers, knowing full well that it would inevitably be made public? Has a backchannel been set up to pass sensitive information to Najib to help him?
In any case, the MACC’s investigation has been thoroughly discredited by the Federal Court which found that the investigation of Justice Nazlan was unconstitutional, illegal, and undermined the independence of the judiciary. In other words, the MACC report is trash; it should never have been circulated leave alone made out to be the final word on the guilt or otherwise of Justice Nazlan. It is not Justice Nazlan – who has now been exonerated twice by the court – who stands discredited but the MACC chief. He should have been immediately sacked after the courts rebuked him.
Having suitably muddied the waters, cast aspersions on the integrity of the entire judicial system, and created doubts about Najib’s guilt, UMNO is now pushing for an immediate royal pardon for Najib.
A fundamental tenet of the judicial system – that the majority view prevails in both the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court – is being upended; the dissenting voice of a single judge is being given credence over that of 13 other judges. If this iniquitous scheme succeeds, our judiciary is as good as dead.
While it comes as no surprise that UMNO would go to such lengths to overturn Najib’s conviction, what is astonishing is that the Prime Minister himself has said nothing thus far. The judiciary, a vital national institution, one of the pillars of our democracy, is under attack and the Prime Minister remains a mute witness.
Is there no moral outrage from the man who has made good governance his middle name? Is the Prime Minister okay with this conspiracy to defame judges and undermine the judiciary? He certainly cannot be unaware of what’s going on and neither can he be unmindful of the consequences of UMNO’s actions. Does his silence mean consent? Is this the price that he has secretly agreed to pay for UMNO’s support?
I voted for Anwar and Pakatan Harapan because I believed them to be honest leaders deeply committed to justice, institutional reform and good governance. And I get it that for the sake of political stability, UMNO has to be part of the government. But if the end result is simply an arrangement to sustain them in power at the cost of our judiciary and of everything we hold dear, then what is the point of it all?
Dennis Ignatius is a former senior Malaysian diplomat and ambassador. This is taken from his blog www.dennisignatius.com.