The writing may be on the wall for Prime Minister Ismail Sabri under attack by those in Umno upset with his lackadaisical attitude towards the jailing of former premier Najib Razak
All predictions are that GE15 will be held immediately after the Budget ’23 presentation on Fri 7 Oct 2022 and, if push comes to shove by Umno and others, even as early as late Sept ’22. It may be more prudent if the new government tables Budget ’23 i.e. after GE15.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been found wanting on fighting rising prices and getting the pandemic-hit economy on track. The people have never experienced so much suffering since World World II ended in 1945. They see Ismail Sabri as no leader. He has been dismissed by social media as lacking in seriousness, firmness and determination and more noted for wasting much time on trivial, frivolous and vexatious matters.
It isn’t surprising that the Umno Special Meet on Sat 27 Aug 2022 jeered angrily when party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi mentioned Ismail Sabri’s name. Zahid urged the Prime Minister to heed the party’s call on GE15. It was Umno’s strongest call, since the pandemic ended on Sun 1 May 2022, for the immediate dissolution of Parliament. See here.
Scores To Settle
Patently, Umno has been getting impatient on GE15, and with good reasons too. It can be argued if we take the cue from Zahid’s speech, that the party has “scores” — for want of a better term — to settle with any number of parties. Umno wants High Court Judge Nazlan and the Chief Justice to be brought before the Judicial Ethics Committee and sacked. The party also wants Attorney General (AG) Idrus Harun sacked.
The Umno President stressed clearly that the party wants to end the politics pervading the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) and the AG’s position, and the court system. The case was made for a Prosecutor-General and an AG having equal but separate jurisdiction.
The party sees the government, since GE14 on Wed 9 May 2018, obsessed with politically-motivated cases, political prosecution, selective prosecution and selective persecution.
Zahid implied that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had abused the legal system since even before GE14 by pushing for politically-motivated cases, navigating the court system for his benefit, and manipulating the media on charges in court. It’s an open secret that former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, son of 2nd Prime Minister Tun Razak, has been the victim of Trial by Media from even before GE13 in 2013. Mahathir’s Narrative in the compliant media built up public perceptions against Najib.
It remains to be seen whether an Umno government in power, after GE15, will incarcerate Mahathir, 97, for alleged treason in Sabah and obstruction of justice in Malaya. See here.
Anwar Ibrahim and Umno
If Anwar Ibrahim had agreed to advise the AG to end politically-motivated cases, he would have been Prime Minister on Sat 21 Aug 2021. Anwar the political chameleon gave out mixed signals privately and publicly. In the end, Umno decided that backing Anwar would be at great risk with all sorts of unknown dangers lurking in the vicinity. Umno decided to back Ismail Sabri, a party vice-president. Anwar will not get a second chance even if Umno sacks Ismail Sabri. He suffers a trust deficit. See here.
The new government in Putrajaya after GE15, if Umno, may get the AG to respect indemnification and implicit Pardon for “acts in office” for the Prime Minister and Parliament. Indeed, indemnification and implicit Pardon, it can be argued, remain part of the basic features doctrine — whether written or otherwise — in the Constitution.
The jury is still out on whether indemnification and implicit Pardon for the Prime Minister and Parliament ever existed, and if they existed, were done away with by Mahathir. He’s notorious, based on his track record, for getting political rivals out of the way, if possible permanently, otherwise temporarily. The basic features doctrine cannot be amended or discarded.
Najib finally fell on Tues 23 Aug 2020 when he was carted away to jail for alleged abuse of power. His sentence reads 12 years, among others. He can be freed after eight years. Najib, as a political prisoner, should be under house arrest. It would be interesting to read what Commonwealth countries think of the fate that has befallen Najib and his plight behind bars. Many Commonwealth jurisdictions have strong rule of law traditions. See here.
Federal Court Review
Najib can file for Federal Court Review on the SRC case.
In the rule of law, the focus must first be on the manner in which a person was convicted and whether that conviction can be perfected in law.
If a conviction cannot be perfected in law, there has been no conviction and any conviction would be null and void and cease to exist as if there was no conviction. Based on Practice Directions, the conviction must be recorded immediately by the Judge in court after the sentence is pronounced. Even if the conviction has been recorded, it does not mean that it has been perfected in law.
There have been cases where lawyers discovered that the Judge forgot to record the conviction. In the end, the court had no choice but to free the convict.
Miscarriage Of Justice
Zahid isn’t willing to wait for eight years. He swore that he wants Najib to be Pardoned by the Agong as soon as possible. If Agong says there has been a miscarriage of justice, then the matter merits Pardon. Contrary to public perceptions, the Agong doesn’t run the bureaucratic gauntlet on Pardon. He isn’t bogged down by technicalities. He can exercise his discretion and even put the cart before the horse. Once the Agong decides on Pardon, all related matters fall into place. The Pardon would be nonjusticiable i.e. not for judicial consideration and resolution. See here.
According to media reports, Najib’s Petition for Pardon was already with the Agong. It’s not known how the Petition was structured. If it was about the RM42m SRC International conviction, Najib also has other cases in court. The Pardon for SRC won’t be the end of Najib’s problems with the law. If Umno seizes the reins of power in Putrajaya in GE15, and Zahid’s pledge on ending politics in the justice system comes true, Najib’s other cases would probably cease to exist.
There’s a case for Najib to seek Pardon — read for “acts in office” — for his Administration, 2009 to 2018, and his wife. All Najib cases would cease to exist as if they never existed. The court has no jurisdiction.
Patently, Pardon can’t be for wrongdoers unless they serve their sentence. In political cases, it can be argued, that Pardon may be for those wronged or those who may be wronged.
The tears of all those who attended the Special Umno Meeting yesterday is enough to tell that the party has had enough and they want justice for their fallen Umno leader, Najib.
Umno/BN Prospects In GE15
The reality may be that Umno/BN will return to Putrajaya after GE15.
Rural Malay in the Peninsula will only vote for Malay parties in government i.e. Umno and the Umno-led BN. Malay votes here may have returned to MIC and MCA since Hindraf may be in coma. It’s not clear whether Indians and Chinese in the Peninsula will vote for BN. It remains to be seen how urban Malay here will vote.
PAS may only pick up MP seats in Kelantan and Terengganu and probably some in Kedah as well.
PH parties are dependent on DAP. It’s not clear how DAP will fare against MIC and MCA.
Sabah and Sarawak have their own stories. They have always said, “Siapa menang — read Putrajaya — kami sokong”. (We will support whoever wins Putrajaya). Generally, they expect a Malay party or a Malay party-led coalition to win Putrajaya.
Putrajaya does not need support from both Sabah and Sarawak. If Sabah supports Putrajaya for example, the Federal gov’t is likely to listen to the Orang Asal in the Borneo Territories on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA’63) and take a tougher line with the Sarawak government on NCR (Native Customary Rights) land as before GE14 when Najib was Prime Minister.
The Orang Asal in Sabah and Sarawak have always supported Putrajaya. They see Putrajaya as their only protection against local tyrants viz. Mustapha Harris, Musa Aman, Shafee and Taib Mahmud. All these leaders were removed by Putrajaya.
Orang Asal in Sabah are unhappy with PTI (pendatang tanpa izin or illegal immigrants) in the electoral rolls and Projek IC which saw Mahathir allegedly issuing IC to foreigners based on late registration birth certs. – NMH
About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. He is not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.
The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.