Court allows Najib’s trial to end early tomorrow for younger voting age Bill

Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex July 15, 2019 — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak leaves the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex July 15, 2019 — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s ongoing corruption trial can end earlier tomorrow to allow the Pekan MP to show up in Parliament for debates and expected voting on a law change for Malaysia’s voting age to be lowered to 18 years old.

High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali allowed an application by Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah for his client’s proceedings to end earlier at close to 11am.

“As the defence gave advance notice to attend Parliament and given the importance of subject matter, I agree that proceedings end tomorrow at 11am for the accused to exercise his duty,” the judge ruled.

The judge, however, said that a replacement for tomorrow on the morning of August 16 would be required, if the prosecution has not completed its case by then.

Trial dates for this case involving RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd’s funds have already been fixed for until August 15, although it is unclear if the prosecution’s case would be completed by then with the attorney-general saying last month that 25 more witnesses were expected on top of the 42 witnesses already called then.

The trial will resume tomorrow at 9am, with the 49th prosecution witness to be called in to testify.

The government is expected to table tomorrow the Bill to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.

 Shafee informed the High Court that the order paper for Dewan Rakyat listed the Bill as expected to be introduced by the prime minister.

Shafee also produced in court a notice to inform all MPs that the Bill will be debated for the second and third reading and decided tomorrow, noting that this proposed law change will require a two-thirds majority of MPs to vote in support.

“So the government also can’t get it because they have got a simple majority,” he said, adding that the Dewan Rakyat secretary had recognised the Bill’s importance with the notice and that prime minister is also inviting all MPs to participate and vote for the Bill.

Shafee noted that Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman had in a separate letter urged all federal lawmakers to show up tomorrow in support of the Bill.

Shafee said allowing the trial to end earlier by close to 11am tomorrow would allow Najib to have the opportunity “to do his statutory duty” to join in the “historical” bid to have the voting age lowered.

Shafee said he expects the Dewan Rakyat debates to be quite “heated” but not acrimonious, indicating it would likely take up the rest of the day.

While acknowledging that the voting on the Bill is unlikely to start so soon tomorrow, Shafee highlighted the importance of Najib in his new role as advisor to the opposition coalition.

“Datuk Seri Najib is now advisor to Barisan Nasional, so I won’t say he is the whip, but he’s having function of advising and how they should vote. It could be a function that is utilised in order to support Bill,” he said when arguing for Najib’s trial to end by 11am.

Ad-hoc deputy public prosecutor Datuk V. Sithambaram maintained the prosecution’s objection to the request, noting that Attorney General Tommy Thomas who was present this morning had already conveyed the prosecution’s position and reasons to the judge.

This is the second time that Najib’s lawyers had asked the High Court judge to pause the trial to allow him the opportunity to attend Parliament proceedings.

In his first attempt previously on July 1, the High Court had rejected Najib’s application to postpone the trial temporarily to join in voting on a planned motion requiring asset declaration by all MPs and a lower voting age Bill.

Mohd Nazlan had then said that there was no certainty when such voting would take place as Parliament would be in session for several weeks, noting that the court was not obstructing Najib’s MP role as he was not being prevented from attending Dewan Rakyat whenever the court is not in session.

Mohd Nazlan had also pointed out on July 1 that Najib is also an accused facing seven charges — covering abuse of position, money-laundering and criminal breach of trust — in the trial, despite the latter also being an MP.

It is understood that Najib as the accused is required to be personally present during trial, which is also to ensure a fair trial.

Malay Mail understands that Dewan Rakyat proceedings usually start at 10am with MPs’ oral questions being answered in a question and answer session until 11.30am, followed by other matters such as debates on proposed motions or proposed Bills.

It is understood that the period where MPs’ questions are answered extend to 12pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as there is Minister’s Question Time on those days.

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