Will Najib's Pardongate be the snowflake that starts an avalanche in PH?

Will PH crack over Najib pardon?

08 Feb 2024 04:32pm
Former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. - FILE PIX
Former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM – A series of events unfolded following former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s reduced sentence which saw former Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president N. Surendran resign from the party, party veteran Hassan Karim making bold statements criticising the party and DAP’s Tony Pua being investigated under Sedition Act.

While these triggered the question of whether it was only a snowflake that would trigger an avalanche in Pakatan Harapan (PH), however, political analyst believed that it would not lead to a bigger problem within the coalition.

University of Tasmania Asia Institute political analyst and director James Chin believed that while certain individuals such as Pua, Surendran and Hassan Karim had been vocal in regards to Najib’s pardon, it would only be temporary.

"No, it will not lead to avalanche. This is all done because the subject (Najib’s pardon) is very complicated and people are very angry (at the moment) but it will die down very fast after this," he said.

James also pointed out that individuals speaking out against the pardon risk facing legal repercussions.

"Things will slow down because most people realise that this is a very dangerous area to get into. Like Pua, anything you say can be used to make a police report against you and the police may arrest you for sedition.

"Secondly, most people over the past few days have realised that it is too late to change anything so even if they protest it is not going to change the reduced sentence for Najib.

"So, they will feel that it is hopeless and will die down quickly. People will move on to the next issue," he said.

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Commenting further, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) political analyst Associate Prof Dr Syaza Shukri believed that the controversy surrounding Najib's pardon would not escalate into a full-blown crisis within PH.

"After Najib's lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah's press conference yesterday on the pardon board’s advice, I think there will be no more issues among party members.

"There will be people who will continue to voice disappointment, but it would not be an “avalanche”," she said.

Meanwhile, political analyst Dr Oh Ei Sun said while these politicians command significant support from reformist-minded voters, the broader electorate must consider the ramifications of their actions.

He noted that while these figures were admired by many for their stance against corruption and injustice, voters must weigh the potential consequences of their actions.

"While these politicians are somewhat worshipped by many reformist-minded voters, these voters would have to rationally think of the alternative of either proactively voting in or passively witnessing a potential and quite imminent takeover by the Green Wave, which perhaps is a bigger threat to them," he said.

He also highlights the challenges faced by these ‘passé politicians’ in securing electoral victories without the strong backing of their respective parties.

"These passé politicians are also unlikely to generate their own electoral wins without the strong backing of their parties, vocal that they might be," he added.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court originally sentenced Najib to 12 years in prison over the RM42 million SRC International corruption case. He was also fined RM210 million.

His conviction and punishments were subsequently upheld in the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. The Pardons Board however announced the sentence reduction which was agreed upon when it met last month.

While the reduced sentence places his release date in August 2028, experts said that Najib could be released earlier on ‘good behaviour’ in August 2026 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

The decision has faced criticism from various quarters, including Pua who made an alleged derogatory statement towards the Royal institution regarding the decision to reduce the prison sentence and fine.

Hassan had also advised the party’s information chief to be more cautious when responding to criticism or risk seeing more activists leaving the party.

Hassan said the way that PKR Information Chief Fahmi Fadzil responded to criticism would also result in members losing confidence in the party and PH.

Surendran, on the other hand, resigned from the party after stating it had failed to carry out promised reforms.

Unity government leaders have called on all parties to respect the board's decision.

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