Group wants transparency from Pardons Board on Najib’s bid

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Transparency required without delay following unconfirmed reports over Najib’s pardon process shocked and confused the nation yesterday afternoon.

Bernama

Conditions that normally apply for pardons:

  • The convict admits guilt and seeks forgiveness from the public
  • The convict undertakes acts of redemption to make amends such as making good losses to the country caused by the convict’s wrongdoing
  • Consideration on whether the convict has already served a substantial part of the prison term he was sentenced to

Advocacy group Projek Sama has urged the Pardons Board of Wilayah Persekutuan to fully disclose the grounds of application by jailed ex-premier Najib Abdul Razak and also make clear the recommendations made to Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, whose reign as Yang di-Pertuan Agong ended yesterday.

In a statement today, Projek Sama said this must be done without delay after unconfirmed reports over Najib’s pardon process shocked and confused the nation yesterday afternoon.

“While the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the full discretionary power on the pardon of convicts in the Federal Territories as provided for under Articles 42(1) and 40(3) of the Federal Constitution, the public has the right to be informed of the grounds of application and recommendations, including any written opinion by the attorney-general [Article 42(9)], made to His Majesty.

“Transparency on the part of the convict Najib and of public officers sitting on the Pardons Board – the attorney-general and the Federal Territory minister (in the case of a state, the chief minister) – is important to ensure public trust in the constitutionally enshrined mechanism of pardon,” said Projek Sama.

The group pointed out that while not amenable to judicial review, a pardon is an invaluable mechanism to supplement justice with compassion by “(making) the convict a new man and (giving) him new credit and capacity.”

“Without transparency, the public’s trust will be eroded by doubts and cynicism. The public may well conclude that powerful convicts abuse the mechanism and thereby undermine justice,” it added.

The board, which is headed by the Agong, is believed to have met on Jan 29 to decide on Najib’s pardon bid.

It was one of the last acts of Sultan Abdullah, whose term as Agong ended yesterday.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Federal Territory) Zaliha Mustafa – who sits on the board – confirmed yesterday that a decision was made and that a statement would be issued.

However, she did not say when exactly the statement would be revealed.

There are three possible outcomes from the board, which are the subject of intense speculation.

The first possibility is that Najib was granted a pardon and would be released from prison soon.

The second outcome that is gaining traction among speculators is that the former prime minister would have his 12-year jail sentence reduced, with some believing it may be cut down by half.

The government has warned the media against reporting based on sources regarding this matter.

A third possibility is that the Pardons Board rejected Najib’s bid.

Projek Sama conceded that pardons for politicians convicted of criminal acts are not rare.

“It is often done to effect political reconciliation.

“However, two conditions normally apply. First, the convict admits guilt and seeks forgiveness from the public. This is especially important as an affirmation of the legitimacy of the prosecution’s efforts and the judiciary’s decisions.

“Also, this condition protects the two institutions from contempt.

“Secondly, where possible, the convict undertakes acts of redemption to make amends such as making good losses to the country caused by the convict’s wrongdoing,” the group said.

It added that beyond those two conditions, a decision on pardon ought to take into consideration whether the convict has already served a substantial part of the prison term he was sentenced to.

“The public deserves to know if Najib has admitted his guilt in the 1MDB scandal and sought forgiveness of Malaysians, and more importantly, whether he has instructed his lawyer to plead guilty on the remaining three cases to save public funds on litigation and return all of the ill-gotten wealth.

“If the Pardons Board has recommended Najib to be pardoned or to have his term commuted while he insists that he is a victim of selective prosecution or that others failed him, then such recommendation has derided the judiciary and the prosecution.

“It also indirectly sends to the judiciary and prosecution a message of futility over Najib’s remaining cases, as he would eventually be freed even if he is convicted again and again.”

Projek Sama went on to state that an act of pardon without justification can greatly undermine the rule of law, discourage respect for law and justice among the citizens, and discourage investment from both at home and abroad.

“Of course, the practice of double standards also erodes the moral basis of the sitting government,” they said.

Najib was locked up in Kajang Prison after being convicted in the RM42 million SRC International corruption case.

The High Court meted out the 12-year imprisonment. The Court of Appeal and Federal Court subsequently upheld the decision.

Najib is also on trial for other crimes, including four counts of abuse of power and 21 counts of money laundering involving RM2.27 billion from 1MDB. – Malaysiakini