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Najib’s presence in court just as important as attendance in Parliament

A royal commission of inquiry into the judiciary is needed

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Parliament may be supreme in making laws but the Judiciary is supreme in trying cases and reaching a verdict at its own time and own pace. Phlip Rodrigues writes.

When Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Azizan Harun wrote to the courts to seek postponement of Najib Abdul Razak’s 1MDB trial so that the Pekan MP could attend proceedings in Parliament, he stirred up a controversy.

The question that looms is: did he intrude into the domain of the Judiciary? Azhar denied he had crossed over to another independent arm of the government, but his action – writing a “request” letter to the judge hearing the Pekan MP’s case – has not been viewed favourably by some.

The fact remains that the Judiciary is as supreme and independent as Parliament, and no one should tell judges to postpone or speed up hearings.

It appears that Azhar is doing Najib a favour by “requesting” his attendance in Parliament. But are parliamentary proceedings more important than court hearings?

Azhar must know that Najib’s case is not an ordinary one, and neither is the accused an ordinary person.

Standing in the dock is the man who once ruled unchallenged until he was toppled from power and subsequently brought to trial over a case that has rocked and dragged Malaysia to the mud.

Such a leader is no longer a voice of respectability and influence in Parliament. What more can Najib contribute to the country after his downfall? Is he so indispensable that he must come to Parliament and take part in the debate?

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Najib may think the people want him to speak up for them, but is anyone keen to listen to him inside or outside Parliament, given his court case?

What the country eagerly wants to hear is what the court has to say about his alleged role in the 1MDB scandal. The case has been going on for a long time, which is not surprising, considering it is complicated, complex and mind-boggling.

The court should not be requested to delay Najib’s trial just because Azhar wants him in Parliament. The train of judicial thought should not be interrupted on the grounds that he is an MP and that his parliamentary duty overrides his court attendance.

It would have been better had Najib resigned from his parliamentary seat after being dealt a humiliating electoral blow. But he stayed on. With the change of government, he is digging in for a longer stay.

The 1MDB scandal is the biggest to hit the country. It overshadows all other cases mainly because the alleged central character is Najib. So, the court has to push on with his case without respite: it should not be requested to delay or postpone the hearing, even for a single day.

Parliament may be supreme in making laws, but the Judiciary is supreme in trying cases and reaching a verdict at its own time and own pace. These two branches of the government work well if they stay out of each other’s way.

Najib may think he carries on his shoulder a heavy responsibility because of his Pekan seat, but the issue is he has an ongoing court case and his presence in court is just as important. It would do him well to focus on his trial because his fate lies in the courts and not in Parliament.

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Phlip Rodrigues, a former journalist, is a keen observer of local events

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