'Pardon or no pardon, Anwar's headache'

PN braces for impact of Najib's potential freedom.

01 Feb 2024 02:54pm
Najib (C) sits in a police vehicle leaving the Palace of Justice after the Federal Court upheld the former leader's corruption conviction over the 1MDB financial scandal in Putrajaya in 2022. - AFP FILE PIX
Najib (C) sits in a police vehicle leaving the Palace of Justice after the Federal Court upheld the former leader's corruption conviction over the 1MDB financial scandal in Putrajaya in 2022. - AFP FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - A potential pardon for former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak promises to impact various political figures in Malaysia, with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim facing particular concerns.

University of Tasmania political scientist James Chin said there were two immediate concerns for the 10th Prime Minister - both to his detriment.

"As a member of the Pardons Board, Anwar risks being condemned for his alleged role in securing Najib's pardon.

"The laws are clear; granting pardons is the sole and exclusive right of the Agong.

"Anwar can only offer his views, nothing more.

"The second is that Najib could destabilise Anwar’s unity government by resuming a leadership position in Umno.

"Nobody believes that Najib will go quietly and retire from active politics," Chin told Sinar Daily.

On the alleged reduction of Najib's jail term, he added that it would not directly impact Anwar's administration.

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Chin also noted that public perception might suggest Anwar back-pedalling on his anti-corruption drive, particularly after corruption charges against Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi were dropped last year.

Meanwhile, political analyst Afi Roshezry Abu Bakar anticipated Najib's return to politics post-pardon.

He noted strong grassroots support for Najib, highlighting potential tensions within Umno, especially for its president, Zahid.

"Grassroots sentiment indicates enduring support for Najib, and Umno's Zahid stands to lose the most.

"Individuals who remain loyal to Umno but have been inactive due to concerns about Zahid's leadership are inclined to support Najib for the presidency once again.

"To simplify, there are individuals who may not fully grasp the intricacies of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), but they are well-aware of the details surrounding Yayasan Akalbudi and the 47 charges associated with it," he said.

Afi also considered Najib's freedom a ticking time bomb for Perikatan Nasional (PN).

"Indications from the ground suggest that PN, especially Bersatu, is shaken with this latest development.

"Recent weeks media reports already suggesting that Bersatu is in turmoil with the division between its president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin.

"Academicians are already saying if Najib is out, the war will begin with many labelling the former Pekan MP as the sleeping giant.

"I recognise that some might perceive any outcome as favourable to Muhyiddin, but the reality is more nuanced.

"If Najib chooses to align with the Madani government, it could give a significant blow to PN.

"Recall that the results of the previous general election for Barisan Nasional were influenced by Zahid's leadership.

"The scenario might have unfolded differently had Najib played a more prominent role in the background," he warned.

He stressed the overriding objective in Malaysian politics often trumped personal animosity.

Chin echoed the sentiment, stating that Najib would not join Bersatu unless the party offered him a clear path back to power.

However, this seems unlikely as long as Muhyiddin envisioned himself as a prospective prime minister, he said.

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil yesterday said the issue of Najib's pardon was also discussed at the Cabinet meeting but reminded local and foreign media to wait for an official statement from the Pardons Board.

International news agency Channel News Asia (CNA) yesterday reported that Najib's jail sentence had been reduced to six years from 12 following his pardon application.

The report, quoting sources including a senior government official, said the decision was made at the Pardons Board's meeting on Monday (Jan 29).

Najib is serving a 12-year sentence in Kajang Prison after being convicted of misappropriating RM42 million funds belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd.