The Point of No Return for Pakatan Harapan

A partial royal pardon for Najib Razak – the biggest kleptocrat in the country (and possibly the world) – is just as egregious as a full pardon. How could the Pardons Board halve Najib’s 12-year jail sentence to six years, when a case of petty theft of just RM22 from a tabung masjid is punishable with 10 years’ imprisonment? Najib was convicted of abuse of power, CBT, and money laundering over a whopping RM42 MILLION in the SRC International case.

The Pardons Board also gave Najib a 76% discount on his RM210 million fine by slashing it to RM50 million (which is just 19% more than the RM42 million he was convicted of stealing). What beggars belief further is the Board’s decision to merely impose one year’s jail if Najib fails to pay his discounted fine of RM50 million.

Without justification, the Pardons Board essentially deprived the State of Malaysia its dues of RM160 million (which could have funded 32 million Menu Rahmah meals, one for nearly each citizen!). What was the Pardons Board’s rationale for halving Najib’s 12-year jail sentence and reducing his RM210 million fine by a whopping 76%? He has shown no remorse. It’s a travesty of justice to lighten his punishment for grand larceny. Over US$4.5 billion (RM21 billion) was stolen in the 1MDB scandal. Whether or not the previous King had the sole discretion to commute Najib’s sentence is irrelevant because the Pardons Board was the gatekeeper; cases could only go up to the YDPA after a recommendation is made by the Pardons Board.

Why did the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led government – which campaigned for years against the man branded by PH as a “kleptocrat”– expedite Najib’s pardon application to the King, instead of rejecting his application altogether since he has only served just over a year of his sentence so far? In the case of a 42-year-old man named Affandi Abdul Rahim – who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 for a firearm-related offence (he didn’t shoot anyone dead) back when he was aged 20 – his mother was still seeking a royal pardon for her son last year, more than two decades after Affandi was sent to prison.

The Pardons Board’s act in reviewing Najib’s punishment so early in his sentence – which then has to be acted on by the King – is the reason why I blame this fiasco entirely on the Madani government. The Pardons Board includes Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa and Attorney-General Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh, both of whom were appointed by the the government. Najib’s partial pardon is an unforgivable perversion of the law that shattered the foundation of Malaysia’s criminal justice system, where every man is supposed to be equal under the law. It doesn’t matter if there are other pending 1MDB-related cases against Najib.

The outcome of those cases is far from guaranteed. The MACC, prosecutors, and the judiciary spent over seven years on the SRC International case, from when investigations began in 2015 until Najib was sent to jail in August 2022. Najib’s commuted sentence of six years is shorter than that, and he may even get out as early as January 2025 for good behaviour, according to a lawyer. The government spat in the faces of thousands of Malaysians who risked police harassment to protest on the streets against Najib in two Bersih rallies in 2015 and 2016.

The government spat in the faces of anti-graft investigators, whistleblowers, and journalists who risked threats to their lives and livelihoods to reveal the truth about 1MDB. The police even arrested MACC officers during MACC’s SRC International investigation in 2015, while two publications by The Edge were suspended. The Malaysian Insider shut down later in 2016.

The government spat in the faces of millions of voters who risked stepping out of their comfort zone to vote for PH – in 2018 and again in 2022 – in support of PH’s (former) ideals of fighting corruption. Najib’s partial pardon cannot be excused as realpolitik. Najib was a red line that should never have been crossed. Every single MP who forms the Madani government is responsible for this fiasco. And PH, this isn’t just about you. You may have forgiven your political enemies now that you’re in power, but you forget that millions of Malaysians fought side by side with you, moving mountains to get a former prime minister incarcerated – against all odds – for robbing the country blind.

The struggle was not PH’s alone. Najib only ended up behind bars because of the power of the people – from courageous MACC investigators and journalists, to ordinary men and women who dared to defy a ban on yellow shirts to march the streets in protest of the 1MDB scandal. Some of us cannot, will not, and should not be expected to let this betrayal go. And don’t you dare cudgel us over the head with the nebulous threat of Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) religious fundamentalism. Pardoning Najib had nothing to do with PN.

The PH-BN government under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim made a deliberate choice to recommend reducing Najib’s sentence, even though taxpayers are still paying and will continue to pay the price (in US dollars) for his global-scale crimes until 2039. In joining the side of kleptocrats, PH crossed the Rubicon – but for what? When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River in 49 BCE, it was with righteous intention to correct what he perceived was wrong with the Roman Republic.

While he was dictator, Caesar implemented many reforms for the people. PH, on the other hand, passed the point of no return not to save the country at great personal risk, but to get a crook freed early just to protect their positions of power and privilege in Putrajaya. With one swoop of a pen to recommend partially pardoning the symbol of global multi-billion dollar kleptocracy, PH irrevocably destroyed not only its own identity (beyond its reputation), but all hope for Malaysian democracy.

PH supposedly “saved” Malaysia from Najib, only to return to Najib. Drop the word Harapan from your name, Pakatan Harapan. You can no longer call yourself that. I don’t even know who or what you are anymore. Who are you? When the 16th general election comes around in a few years’ time, we do not have to play the binary game forced upon us of choosing the lesser of two evils. Opting out is an option when the political and democratic process is rigged to favor elites.

Getting elected is your problem; it’s not mine. Don’t ever try to emotionally blackmail us again by citing the potential destruction of the future of our children and grandchildren if we abstain from voting or if we vote for your opponent. You already destroyed this country and future generations, all by yourself. Anwar and PH, this is your legacy. Boo Su-Lyn is writing in her capacity as an ordinary voter from KL. February 2, 2024

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