In yet another twist to Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s SRC International appeal hearing, the former prime minister has applied to recuse Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat from hearing his case.
The application was made by Najib’s lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik immediately after the case proceedings started at 9.40am.
He said the defence had filed the application late last night and again this morning based on “certain information” they received two or three days ago.
“I want to emphasise that this application is being made with the greatest of respect.
“It is based on information we received two or three days back,” he said, adding that the defence was now seeking directions from the court on this matter.
Tengku Maimun then directed the court registrar to get a copy of the documents which had been filed by the lawyer before making it clear that any decision on the recusal application was up to the bench.
She then asked Hisyam if he had anything to submit pertaining to Najib’s main appeal hearing.
To this, Hisyam maintained that he had nothing to submit.
According to a copy of the affidavit in support of the recusal bid, Najib claimed to have found out on Aug 17 about a Facebook post allegedly made by Tengku Maimun’s husband, Zamani Ibrahim.
The former premier claimed that the post, dated May 11, 2018, had among others allegedly expressed happiness at Najib being “dethroned” following the 14th general election (GE14) that year.
“I verily believe that these developments are highly disturbing in light of the fact that the said Zamani Ibrahim clearly has negative sentiments towards my leadership of this country while I was prime minister and had concluded I had siphoned sovereign government funds into my personal accounts.
“Being the husband of the chairperson that is adjudicating my appeal it is likely that he would have influenced the thinking of the mind of the chairperson as to my alleged culpability.
“I further state that considering the nature of their spousal relationship, it is likely that the mind of the learned chairperson would have been unconsciously influenced by the sentiments against me held by her ladyship’s husband.
“Based on all the above, any findings by this Honourable Court made against me would be subject to scepticism wherein an informed and fair-minded observer will perceive that the decisions procured are tainted with bias and the public perception of the independence of the judiciary will be in doubt,” Najib alleged in the affidavit affirmed by him.
He pointed out that prior to Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali presiding over the SRC trial at the High Court, the first presiding judge, Sofian Razak, was recused as he was said to have a brother who was a member of Umno and in the state executive council of Pahang.
Najib noted that in those circumstances, the Bar Council, a representative of the public interest, issued a statement calling for his recusal on the basis that the public may perceive that justice is not seen to be done.
“In a similar fashion, the honourable chief justice/chairperson must be held to the same standards as being proposed the Bar Council and this supports my contention that there is a real danger of bias.
“Also, recently in my application to admit Jonathan Laidlaw QC (Queen’s Counsel from the United Kingdom), (High Court judge) Wan Farid had also made a declaration that his brother is an active Umno politician and recused himself from hearing the matter in spite of any party not raising any objection.
“Hence, this court being the apex court of the country must also adhere to the similar high standards as expounded by the High Court judge,” Najib contended.
At the moment, the apex bench has temporarily stood down the hearing of the main SRC appeal to go through the recusal application.