So Channel News Asia’s ‘sources’ in government were right: the disgraced ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak got his 12-year-long prison time halved and his fine slashed by the federal territories Pardons Board.
Journalist Leslie Lopez should be thanked for sparing anxious folk in Malaysia the shock and bewilderment that would ensue following the board’s announcement on Friday.
The board’s decision has infuriated many, including me, as the decision suggests that justice in this country is meted out differently for the poor masses and the political elite.
We have seen ordinary folks caught for minor possession and distribution of marijuana sent to the gallows. Poor folks who stole food items were given lengthy prison terms.
But a former prime minister who looted enormous sums and tarnished the country’s name globally has his prison term halved and his fine heavily ‘discounted’.
PH-BN ties intact with this move?
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Pakatan Harapan politicos on the board were party to this decision.
Behind the scenes, PH thinking could be influenced by the need to preserve the coalition’s political partnership with Umno.
This could have been a factor despite the uncertainty over whether this partnership can last beyond the current government’s term, given the negative reception from Umno grassroots on what they perceive to be an unholy alliance.
If this was a consideration, then I ask these politicos – why did you choose to backstab your supporters who were yearning for much-deserved justice for a crook like Najib?
Is it really worth it to renege on your reform promises and your vow to battle corruption – just for the sake of maintaining a political alliance that is probably temporary and that does not have a bright future?
It is justified to pose these questions to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and PH, instead of the former king, because while the latter chairs the board, he could only decide based on the advice given by board members – which included Anwar before his federal territories minister replaced him.
Damage control doomed to fail
Hardcore Anwar supporters (often dubbed as walanons) have begun damage control by saying the PH-Barisan Nasional alliance is still the preferred bloc over Perikatan Nasional. They also argue that Najib still has pending 1MDB-related court cases.
Meanwhile, a PKR MP, in what appears to be an attempt to absolve his party and its PH coalition of the board’s decision, said the decision would still maintain the resolve of Anwar’s government and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to curb corruption in the country.
The outspoken MP, who never shies away from calling out wrongdoings committed by his party and the government, also pointed out that Najib was not actually pardoned.
But then, even if the board’s decision does nothing to hamper Putrajaya’s commitment to curb corruption, it has sparked scepticism among the masses towards Anwar’s cause. People will no longer take his “reformasi” and “anti-corruption” mantras seriously.
To that PKR MP, I say let’s not forget – and you understand this well – many lost faith in this “Madani” (civil and compassionate) government after embattled Deputy PM Zahid Hamidi was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in his Yayasan Akal Budi graft case.
The Pardons Board decision has now eliminated whatever semblance of trust the public – especially PH supporters – have in justice and law and order in this country. Who cares if Najib was not actually pardoned? The board’s decision will cause immense and irreparable damage anyway.
The PKR MP added the board’s decision still respects the verdicts made by the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court.
Really? From what we have seen, the board has done the opposite with its move.
Sad to say, the damage has been done for Anwar and PH, as they are likely to lose many supporters. Heartbroken supporters might not choose to register their protest against Anwar and PH by voting for Perikatan Nasional. But they may well sit out future elections, which will cost PH many state and federal seats.
In state elections last August, voter turnout in Selangor and Penang dropped, costing PH several state seats. After the board’s decision, what guarantee is there that the turnout won’t plummet even more in the next general election?
After what has transpired, Anwar needs to brace himself for the likely political backlash. He can then just forgo his dream of securing a second term as PM.
What a shameful legacy for the Reformasi icon!
Dineskumar Ragu, an Aliran member, is a former journalist with Free Malaysia Today