FEBRUARY 3 — Najib Razak will probably walk out of prison in 2026.
Whether an army of motorbikes and their riders wait for Bossku at the gates of Kajang Prison to ferry him around as the prince of the downtrodden will be left to be seen.
Four years is long. In social media time — where most of his fans frolic about — four years is an eternity.
How did the original sentence of 12 years turn to four? The Pardons Board halved his sentence this week to six years.
Together with his acquittal from the audit related prosecution last year and the ongoing lobby for a DNAA (Discharge Not Amounting to Acquittal) for his last remaining case, Najib can afford to smile, even in his prison cell.
It’s usual to hand out parole for first-time offenders after completing two-thirds of their sentence, which is now retimed to four of six years which ends August 23, 2026.
What to make of it?
The decision, the tone it sets and the reactions from the people?
It’s all a bit north of insane.
Millions of ringgit
There is a consensus among Najib’s opponents — those who form the core support for Pakatan Harapan — that by virtue of the financial quantum of the conviction, RM42 million, in a country where half the working population holds less than RM10,000 in respective EPF pension funds, the ex-PM should serve time as long as there are prisons in the country.
However, the justice system which he was diligently tried and convicted under is committed to care for all including those convicted. The idea of justice disassociates itself from vengeance.
And pardoning leaders of governments is not strange or unusual. Even if immensely controversial.
South Korean ex-president Lee Myung-bak was pardoned four years into his 17-year sentence for corruption in 2022. A year before in 2021, another president Park Geun-hye was pardoned. Ms Park had served five years for two different charges.
And there is the gold standard. Former Peru president Alberto Fujimori was pardoned in 2017 after serving 10 of his 25 years convicted of kidnappings and murders involving death squads.
There is a sense some time served is already enough to make a national leader contrite about his misdeeds. After all, a national leader and family would have been roasted by the court of public opinion long before conviction.
While it is more readily offered to national leaders, it is linked to the fact they led their countries. After years of public service rising to the highest office in the land, even the worst tyrant cannot help but do some good in those years at the helm.
Working late and walking safe
Yesterday, the late trains way past 11pm were filled with commuters heading to Kajang.
The system cost plenty — with even questions over cost overruns — but Najib saw it through.
In the 1980s there were talks of an MRT to compete with Singapore’s start of its version in 1985. All Malaysians got was two LRT lines in time for the 1998 Commonwealth Games and a pitiable monorail five years later.
The nation waited 32 years to get to the MRT game with Singapore, in 2017.
Those Najib Razak years of 2009 to 2018 got the trains across the finish line.
There are those UTC centres where all types of government services — driving licences, passport & identity cards — are available under one roof and which reduces discomfort for citizens. Part of Najib’s Blue Ocean Strategy think since his time as deputy prime minister.
The man served, and other errors notwithstanding, apples have to be compared with apples.
Those millions who have a far greater functioning public transport system and therefore have their lives lifted and opportunities tapped can be grateful.
If those with cars and better lives already cannot appreciate these small mercies, then they can walk back to their vehicles and drive off quietly before a lynch mob sets upon them.
This is not a discussion about whether his conviction was appropriate, but one whether those years of service merit consideration when weighing his jail sentence after a suitable period of incarceration.
The true lesson from the Najib conviction should be how to never have this happen again.
Umno’s dominance and monopolisation of all powers in the country for over 50 years resulted in its leader at all times to possess too much power and operate above the scrutiny of mere mortals, or popularly known as the rest of Malaysia.
Najib was prime minister, finance minister and the chairman of the disgraced 1MDB filing for debt after debt backed by Malaysia.
When information is unavailable, media curtailed, the justice system lacking independence and civil society impeded and harassed, the real question is do we actually know the whole aggregated damage administrations past and from the distant past inflicted on the federation?
How many of us live lesser lives because they made it so?
But critically, the central objective is to strengthen institutions and teach Malaysians that leaders are fallible. That the rakyat must be insisted, scolded in fact, to watch and ask questions all the time. Institutionalise vigilance, not be shocked when people steal cookies from the jar. Switch on the CCTV, dammit.
A free Najib
That’s still a time away.
His media team in the months to come will ramp up romantic notions of Najib’s promise, how a true blueblood is needed to steer the country back to shape — even if that shape never existed.
The people, do they not care?
They do, they care for themselves in a time of greater uncertainty presently.
They do not worry too much about past transgressions as much as they do for future benefits.
Whether the Malaysian people change their minds too much about Najib, that is for those who are in the marketplace of ideas to champion one way or the other.
This is when the column reminds all that while Ferdinand Marcos ran off from a mob of millions on the streets of Manila’s main highway in 1986, his son is the Philippines’ president currently, almost 40 years later.
Right or wrong, whether redemption is possible or historical revisionisms are too easy to manufacture when a people are too busy on their smartphones looking at cat videos, that is for Malaysian democracy to decide.
Today, Malaysia’s democrats have to come to terms that there are more important things to do — must do to preserve our system’s integrity — rather than enjoy seeing old enemies in cold prison cells indefinitely, as a cruel joke.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.