Umno has sent a request to the king for a royal pardon for former prime minister Najib Razak who is the party advisor. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has also sent a letter of representation to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to drop the 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering involving Yayasan Akalbudi (YAB) that were brought against him.
Clearly, Zahid and Najib want to escape conviction but did they think through the decisions and implications or frantically made decisions based on a dissenting judgement in the review of Najib’s SRC case which had found him guilty?
Perhaps, my layperson’s mind can’t grasp the legal aspects of Zahid’s latest two moves. But, I find the audacity of the requests unbelievable. Firstly, the application was sent to the king. What now will the king do? Pass the application to the pardon’s board for consideration? By sending the application directly to the king, Umno has now made the king the secretary of the pardon’s board who passes it to the board!
Secondly, can the political party of a convicted politician send a request on behalf of the said politician? According to Regulation 113 of the Prison Regulations 2000, a petition can only be filed by the convicted, their family or a lawyer appointed by them, and the Prisons Department. But Umno has bypassed the standard procedure and sent the request directly to the king and in doing so does it realise it has put both the king and the government in a spot?
Since the application came to the king from outside of the government, the king now has to consider whether he acts as the king or the king who is the chairman of the pardon’s board. If he acts solely as the king, he is free to pardon anyone but will it be recognized by the government?
For it to be recognized by the government, the application must go through the government and be approved by the pardon’s board in a sitting with the king as the chairman.
If the king issues a pardon in his capacity as the king, it would put the government in a spot as firstly it must be established that the king has the constitutional authority to issue a pardon without the rest of the pardon’s board and which the government must recognize.
If the king has no such constitutional authority and he issues a pardon, then Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will now have to make a stand as to what is constitutional and advise the king accordingly.
Whether he will do that or not and go along with whatever interpretation the king follows in the way he did when the king instructed the political parties to form a unity government with Anwar as prime minister is left to be seen, which will be seen as another constitutional breach!
It is to avoid such chaotic governing processes that a pardon’s board was set up with the king as chairman so that applications are brought through the government and once approved according to the set criteria the government acts to validate the decision.
It is the same with Zahid’s letter to the AGC requesting that his criminal charges be dropped. If he has the right to send such a letter, then every other person charged in court has the right to make such a request! A precedent has been set and now it can be expected that others will do the same.
Was Zahid and those who advised him fully aware of the implications of the above two requests? I like to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that they were but, I suspect, they don’t care — as long as there is a feeble even if baseless hope they could go free, they would seize it irrespective of whether they were acting responsibly. They don’t care if they were setting a precedent and, in the process, undermining the finality of judges’ decisions.
Would Zahid, who is the deputy prime minister, have been so bold to sidestep the correct procedures and practices of good governance if he and his party weren’t part of the ruling government? Or, was he emboldened precisely because he is in government?
These are the brazen acts of desperate politicians who have been given access to power by being included in the Cabinet and who use their power to act for selfish gain.
As the prime minister, Anwar has not reined in his junior coalition partner who has put unnecessary stress on the government, the constitutional monarchy, the judiciary and the pardon’s board. For that, he must be held responsible.
The past two governments fell due to Umno’s manipulations. The same might happen to Anwar’s unity government.
His position — despite the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) he signed with parties in his coalition — is not guaranteed. The MoU was signed with parties, not individual MPs.
If MPs get tired of Umno’s shenanigans and Anwar’s accommodative silence, they may revolt. Their parties can simply claim they couldn’t do anything about it because the MPs acted on behalf of their constituents. If the MPs revolt, it may be the end of the unity government.
Anwar has to rethink the leeway he has given Umno — if he wants to save the unity government.