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Don’t bar media from covering Najib’s ‘house arrest order' proceedings, says group
Published on: Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Don’t bar media from covering Najib’s ‘house arrest order' proceedings, says group
The Centre for Independent Journalism says former prime minister Najib Razak’s bid for house arrest is a matter of public interest. (Bernama pic)
PETALING JAYA: The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) today called for a public hearing of Najib Razak’s bid to compel the government to produce a “supplementary order” purportedly issued by the former king allowing him to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.

In a statement, it said the media should not be barred from observing the proceedings after Najib’s lawyer Shafee Abdullah applied for the public to be excluded due to “sensitive material” in the case.

CIJ executive director Wathshlah Naidu said Najib’s bid to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest was a matter of public interest, and that the basic tenets of democracy require the judicial process to be transparent, not “shrouded in a cloud of secrecy”.

“Barring the media and the flow of unbiased information in this case effectively prevents the public from monitoring the outcome of a corruption case that rocked the nation,” she said.

“We urge the judiciary to keep the hearing public. All media must have full and meaningful access and keep the public informed accordingly.

“The public’s right to information in an open, transparent, timely and meaningful manner must be protected and upheld at all times.”

In a separate statement, electoral reform group Bersih said the proceedings should be conducted transparently given the high-profile nature of the case and its involvement of public funds.

It also asked why the deputy public prosecutor’s office had not objected to the application to prohibit the media from covering the proceedings, saying an explanation was owed.

“Proceedings of such high-profile cases should be transparent and open because the public has the right to know the true status of the case,” said Bersih.

“If they are not (transparent), it may give rise to perceptions of double standards that can erode public confidence in the government and our judicial institutions.”

In his application filed on April 1, Najib claimed that then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah had issued the supplementary order during the Federal Territories Pardons Board’s (FTPB) meeting on Jan 29, a day before his term ended.

The FTPB is headed by the king and consists of five members: the attorney-general, federal territories minister and a maximum of three others appointed by the king.

Najib alleged that the supplementary order was not announced by the board on Feb 2, when it said it had halved Najib’s prison sentence in his SRC International case from 12 years to six and reduced his fine from RM210 million to RM50 million.

Najib said while his lawyers had written to government leaders such as Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to confirm whether the supplementary order existed, these requests had gone unanswered.

Najib also alleged that the government was in contempt for not executing the supplementary order.

The former Umno president wants the Kuala Lumpur High Court to compel the government to execute the alleged order by placing him under house arrest.

Najib, 70, is currently serving his sentence at Kajang Prison and is to be released on Aug 23, 2028.

In an affidavit filed in support of Najib’s application which surfaced yesterday, deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was reported to have confirmed the existence of the purported order.

Zahid, who claimed to have viewed a copy of the purported order on Umno Supreme Council member Tengku Zafrul Aziz’s mobile phone, also alleged that the copy Tengku Zafrul showed him had been taken from the original shown to Tengku Zafrul by Al-Sultan Abdullah.

In a statement yesterday, Tengku Zafrul said he would seek to file his own affidavit in the proceedings to correct “factual errors” in Zahid’s affidavit.

“I take no position in so far as the merits of the ongoing dispute is concerned but I merely wish to ensure that the factual record is properly reflected and recorded,” the investment, trade and industry minister said.

In a subsequent statement, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said it would alert the courts to Tengku Zafrul’s plan to seek leave to file his affidavit.

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