KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he will apply to be absent from an ongoing corruption trial next week in order to vote on a crucial Bill in Parliament, after the High Court refused to excuse him on Monday.
The Pekan MP claimed Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas objected prematurely to the request, arguing that it was his constitutional right to attend parliamentary sittings as an elected lawmaker.
July 16 is when Putrajaya is expected to table for the third reading the Bill to amend the Federal Constitution and lower the voting age from 21 to 18.
Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman introduced the Bill today.
“Although it is for the judge to decide, but the AG had objected to it in the first instance. I think if the AG hadn’t objected, then there is no reason why I should be deprived of my constitutional right as an MP.
“And certainly, a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority, which requires every single MP to be present whether they support it or not,” Najib told reporters when met at the Parliament lobby here today.
“That is a constitutional right of an MP, certainly the court can adjust to it.”
Citing the case of the late DAP chairman Karpal Singh, Najib said the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government had been lenient with the former.
He said the judiciary then had made allowances for Karpal, both when he had been in the dock and when he had represented others.
Najib then accused the current Pakatan Harapan government of being “a lot tighter” in such matters compared to his administration.
“During BN’s time, we were quite liberal. Karpal Singh had every single opportunity... The courts adjusted dates to accommodate him even when he was a counsel, not even when he was the accused.
“He was given the opportunity to perform in court as a counsel for other cases as well as attending parliament. So you can imagine the latitude we gave to them when BN was in power and today, there is so much talk about so-called Malaysia Baharu but we don’t see it being implemented,” said Najib.
On Monday, Najib’s lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah argued that his client must be in Parliament to vote on the special motion in making it mandatory for all MPs to declare their assets, which was approved the same day, and another to lower the voting age.
High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali declined, however, and said there was no certainty that voting would take place as suggested by the defence.
He then reminded Najib that he was on trial for serious criminal charges.
Thomas had also objected to the request, saying an adjournment application should be considered on a case-by-case basis and this was the price an MP who is accused of a criminal charge has to pay.