The day that concerned Malaysians had been waiting for finally arrived.
The five-member panel of Federal Court judges, led by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, unanimously dismissed the former prime minister’s appeal to quash his conviction over seven criminal charges as well as the sentencing.
The conviction that was upheld by the Federal Court relates to former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s misappropriation of RM42m belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd, the former subsidiary of scandal-ridden 1MDB.
This court ruling carries a sentence of 12 years in jail and a RM210m fine.
The bench made the ruling in the face of various forms of intimidation and insults expressed by certain quarters lately. It is, thus, to the credit of the judges concerned that they stood their ground without fear or favour.
Needless to say, judicial independence must be jealously guarded in a constitutional democracy so that justice can be administered effectively.
It has been a long-drawn court case that attracted the attention and concern of Malaysians and foreigners alike. This is because for the first time in the country’s history, a former prime minister was caught and found guilty of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering.
This high-profile case involved the embezzlement of immense public funds, which could have benefited the people, particularly the needy and dispossessed. The money was siphoned off as if the national coffers was one’s private purse.
Imagine the number of new hospitals, medical equipment, clinics, schools, low-cost flats and other public amenities that could have served the needs of ordinary Malaysians had taxpayers’ money not been stolen.
The pilfering of public funds has also left ordinary Malaysians, particularly our children and their children, to live under the weight of mounting national debt. It is most unjust that their future has been pawned.
Lest we forget, political leaders are supposedly entrusted to manage public funds in the most prudent manner possible so that their constituents can be better served. Betraying the people’s trust is the most heinous act.
This conviction also tells us of the importance of transparency and accountability among those who are supposed to govern the country for the benefit of the people. Every ringgit and sen counts.
That is why law enforcement agencies, particularly the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, have been urged to be more vigilant in helping to contain and eradicate corruption without fear or favour. This is especially so in a society such as ours where graft has become increasingly entrenched and normalised.
Hopefully, the conviction of the country’s sixth prime minister would be made an example to others who are corrupt in their ways and who seem to have lost their moral compass, in the blinding glare of power, greed and material wealth.
This blot in the chapter of our country’s history should also warn us all that crime does not – and should not – pay, regardless of our social status. – The Malaysian Insight