Resetting Malaysia – People’s Power and Judiciary Independence for Working Democracy

02 Sep 2022 09:47am
Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex, yesterday. She was sentenced to 10 years jail and fined RM970 million by the High Court after she was convicted of three corruption charges linked to the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project. - Photo: BERNAMA
Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex, yesterday. She was sentenced to 10 years jail and fined RM970 million by the High Court after she was convicted of three corruption charges linked to the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project. - Photo: BERNAMA

Victory begets victory is an English expression that is widely used yet little understood.

In the conviction of Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the already convicted and jailed Najib Razak, the sixth former Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Malaysian judiciary is beginning to show that big wigs in the upper stratosphere of Malaysian politics, can and do fall.

But how did this process begin ? It started from the constant clamour for “Reforms” or “Reformasi”, which finally culminated in the People’s Power of May 9, 2018; where the 61 year reign of Umno/BN was finally snapped into two.

Although the “Sheraton Move” was a big setback between Feb 23, 2020 and Feb 29, 2020, that led to the reins of power going back to the newly formed coalition that included Umno, on March 1, 2020, the legal prosecution of the most of the corruption cases continued, with the exception of several discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA).

It was the later that had Malaysians and the world worried that the kleptocrats would get away.

They are still trying, which is why the guilty verdict pronounced on Rosmah Mansor, is important in every sense of the word.

Why ? While there is an ongoing campaign by Umno, the political party of Najib Razak, to seek a full Royal Pardon, the process is likely to be futile.

The very nomination for a pardon of Najib Razak's all round conviction has to come from the Malaysian Prime Minister's Clemency Commission, which Ismail Sabri, has yet to activate. Forget not the more courts cases that Najib has yet to complete.

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What more Najib Razak was given the fullest legal avenues to dispute the charges.

Yet he was convicted, first by the High Court, then the Court of Appeals, finally the Federal Court, with a total of nine judges in all, who at each process, have declared Najib Razak, as guilty as charged.

Convicted of embezzling RM42 million from SRC, a subsidiary of the equally scandal ridden 1MDB, whom Najib Razak's involvement has finally begun again at the High Court first soon after his incarceration in the prison of Kajang, Selangor on August 23, 2022. Najib was sentenced to 12 years in prison with a fine of RM210 million.

Rosmah Mansor, who likes to be referred to as the first lady, is now out on a bail of RM2 million paid 4 years ago when she was first charged.

Yet, if she does not appeal, which of course she would, using the same legal tactics or play book of her husband, she would otherwise have to serve 10 years in prison in all, and pay the RM970 million fine or in lieu of additional custodial sentence.

Rosmah’s lawyer Jagjit Singh criticized the fine amount as being “too high”.

“ To be sure, the fine imposed is unprecedented, the largest in Malaysian legal history,” he told reporters outside court.

“Now our client has to come up with nearly RM1 billion, and she doesn’t have a source of income.”

With the guilty verdicts of both the husband and wife, with the Judge Zaini Mazlan presiding Rosmah Mansor 's case to have sentenced her on the ground that the wife of Najib Razak did have substantial influence on "her husband's decision" with some of the ministers in Umno and elsewhere who have been charged in the heydays of the 22 month of the government of Pakatan Harapan (PH) before it cracked apart due to some Members of Parliament who leapt to support Perikatan Nasional (PN), could quiver in fear.

Several legal precedents have been made set in the case of Najib Razak and now Rosmah Mansor.

Per the dynamics and mechanics of the Anglo Saxon laws as applied in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, all parties involved directly or indirectly in corruption would have to cast away the charges that they did not have any roles what so ever in each of the cases of their superiors, spouses even their subordinates whether there is any form of conjugal, non-conjugal or family or non-family ties.

This is the seismic shift in the legal verdict on Sept 1, 2022, against Rosmah Mansor, as it was against Najib Razak on Aug, 23 2022.

However, if any Malaysians are celebrating in joy, they must not. No matter how judicious the judiciary is, it is a human institution after all. All the right honourable judges and esteemed chief justice, can never always be around forever.

Those judges who will come after their tenures and lives in this earthly realm may or may not be able to exercise the same courage.

The signs of Umno trying to re-dominate the judiciary is already clear. With Azalina Othman Said, a former deputy speaker of the parliament, herself a lawyer, who is currently both a Member of Parliament in Malaysia and concurrently the Special Advisor to the current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri already asking Umno to put a lease on the future Attorney General, should Umno/BN comes to power.

Despite the perverse nature of her plan, she remains the Special Advisor of the Prime Minister, when in fact she should be dismissed on the spot, as this implies a scheme to create a deep state that goes back to the roots of Umno, and nothing but Umno, to the degree that even all the Royal institutions in Malaysia, will be completely undermined.

Just today, Azalina did resign as the PM’s Special Advisor to the Prime Minister as confirmed by the PMO’s Media Statement dated Sept 1, 2022.

Thus, the legal verdict of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor can be rightly applauded, as the judiciary --- for now ---- has worked, Malaysians of all stripes and colours would still have to root for political coalition or electoral pact that guarantees independent judiciary, come the next General Election, otherwise known as GE 15, which has to be held before the September of 2023.

Barring this choice, the only way for Umno or anyone to spring themselves from corruption is by undermining all and sundry --- that includes you reading this article --- that they have been perjured and wronged. No they have not. The reforms against all rounds corruption must continue unabated with total vigour.

The solution is all round rejection of the kleptocrats in GE 15 more than anything else. This is because the moment Barisan Nasional (BN) makes a comeback, they will indeed do as what Azalina has said and written without retracting the plan. Be that as may, Ismail Sabri, the ninth Prime Minister of Malaysia, and a trained lawyer, has stood his ground, against all pressure from Umno/BN, in not interfering in judiciary matters and should be rightly lauded.

Truth, these days, are in the eye of the beholder.

Dr Rais Hussin is the CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.