Najib Razak made history by being the first former Malaysian PM to take the stand to defend himself in a criminal trial. He promptly put the blame for the whole 1MDB and SRC International fiasco solely on the shoulders of Jho Low. In other news, the government has (shock of shocks!) kept a GE14 promise; the tabling of the IPCMC Bill has been postponed till March; and, an idiot in Parliament caused a ruckus by being disrespectful to Hindus.

Jibby's day in court

Jibby in the spotlight

Having already got the “honour” of being the first former Malaysian PM to be charged with a crime, yesterday Najib Razak became the first to take the stands to defend himself, starting off the defence’s case in his SRC International trial with a 200-plus page witness statement.

It didn’t start well for the Jibster – he forgot to bring his MyKad and couldn’t produce it when asked to verify his identity! In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t matter that he has one of the most famous faces (and pinkest lips) in Malaysia – the formalities still need to be observed.

Anyway, Jibby, as expected, blamed bulbous businessman Jho Low for being the reason the country is deep in debt. He admitted he’d known Low, saying the felonious financier presented himself as being influential in the Middle East.

Najib said Low had been involved in 1MDB from the time it was set up as the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) in 2009, and was close to Terengganu’s Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, the then-Agong. Due to Low’s chummy relationship with the king, and his claims of Middle East influence, Najib said he thought the cherubic conman would be able to “ease 1MDB” in achieving its objectives.

Meanwhile, Jibby testified that even though he had written “bersetuju” (agreed) on a RM4 billion loan application by SRC International from Retirement Fund (Incorporated), or KWAP, its CEO was under no compulsion to grant the loan. It was not an order, he said, as he had no power to force Azian Mohd Noh to do so. 

In his opening statement, Najib’s lead counsel Shafee Abdullah moaned about the lack of time the defence got to prepare its case, saying it was given only 21 days when the norm in court cases was months, judging from the seriousness of the case, the fact the accused (the Jibster in this case) elected to give sworn testimony and the number of witnesses offered by prosecution, among others.

As a result, he said the defence was only able to interview seven of the 66 prosecution witnesses, and some members of the defence team had not been able to sleep for 48 hours. If Shafee is right, then it’s certainly worth asking why Jibby’s team seems to be getting shafted.

Outside court, Shafee said the former PM was a victim of Jho Low and four mysterious Arab men (first time we’re hearing about these uncles!), and that Low was the leader of the pack. 

Shafee also questioned why the authorities had been unable to track down and arrest Low (the whole damn country’s wondering that, to be frank). He even insinuated there was a conspiracy against his client, asking whether “they were hiding Jho Low from us”.

It’s only the first day of the defence’s case in the SRC International trial, and already we’re on the edge of our seats. Get comfortable and break out the popcorn, folks. 

Two terms and you're out

Pakatan Harapan has kept one of its GE14 election promises. That’s something we don’t get to say very often.

A bill to amend the Federal Constitution to limit a PM’s tenure to just two terms was tabled in Parliament yesterday for first reading. The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2019 was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong, who is de facto Law Minister, and is expected to be debated in the next sitting in March.

However, the bill, aimed at curbing excessive powers of a prime minister, is prospective and not retrospective, which means it only affects office bearers coming in after the date of gazettement.

What this means is that the tenures of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the fourth PM, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the fifth and even Najib Razak are not taken into account. So, Mahathir and Najib can potentially return as PM even after the amendment is gazetted (a big “if” considering it takes a two-thirds majority vote in the Dewan Rakyat to amend the Federal Constitution).

Asked later to comment on the bill, Mahathir was his usual cynical self. Speaking to reporters in the lobby of Parliament, Maddey simply replied: “I am 94 years old. You want me to be PM at 100?” 

The move is similar to the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution. The amendment, which took effect in 1947, limits the presidency to two terms and is said to have been inspired to curb any potential excesses following the unprecedented four-term presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Prior to Roosevelt, there had been a long-standing tradition of US presidents only serving two terms, but it had never officially been limited.

Sosma is here to stay

Did we say Pakatan kept a GE promise? We must’ve forgotten to mention they are currently hemming and hawing over another.

Before they spectacularly came into power by winning  GE14 in May last year, the good folks of Pakatan Harapan had promised to do away with draconian provisions within several laws. Among these, of course, is the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma.

Our exalted lord and master Maddey Mohamad said the government’s review of preventive laws was to ensure offences such as terrorism would be better defined. This is so laws distinguish between a major act of terror or a minor one, such as unknowingly supporting militant organisations or “taking a picture with someone who later turns out to be a terrorist”. Which we would argue aren’t even acts of terror in the first place.

Anyway, it’s all well and good the gomen is trying to better define Sosma, but what about the promise to repeal or amend draconian laws? Does Sosma, which gives police wide-ranging powers, not fall under that category? Let’s hope the government doesn’t conveniently forget the inherently problematic parts of Sosma while playing sleight of hand with definitions and whatnots. 

The Malaysian Bar got it right when it said piecemeal amendments to Sosma would not suffice as it was an unnecessary piece of legislation. The Bar, last month, called for Sosma to be repealed in its entirety. Others point out that since almost all provisions within Sosma are draconian, Maddey & Co. should just scrap the whole damn thing.

Go ahead, Pakatan. Be bold and surprise us. Repeal Sosma. There are other provisions laws to tackle terrorism.

IPCMC postponed

The new and supposedly improved Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill, which was supposed to have been retabled in Parliament yesterday, has been postponed.

De facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong said the bill would, instead, be retabled next March to allow all stakeholders to give more views.

As we said a few days ago, this is one of those rare cases where a delay is actually good. The government needs to allow the bill – which has 37 amendments – some time to be scrutinised by relevant groups and people before it’s tabled.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) have questioned the force’s seriousness about reform considering the statements from various senior policemen resisting the formation of the IPCMC.

“With all these objections, the police must answer to all Malaysians whether they are serious about reforming the police force, projecting an efficient, clean and trustworthy image and serving the people and the nation with integrity and respect for human rights,” LFL director Melissa Sasidaran said in a statement.

To be fair, all parties, police included, deserve the space to review the IPCMC as long as feedback given are within reason lah. After all, the fuzz only asked for more time, and not for the bill to be dropped altogether, though the Senior Police Officers Association did admit some policemen were scared (hmmmmm!). 

We are all for this slight delay as long so we end up with an IPCMC that’s fair to all, and with the right bite. It’s time to bring our police force to a higher level in the eyes of the public.

Odds and ends

Here’s a quick roundup of other important or interesting stories that bubbled up yesterday:

  • Umno is gonna amend its constitution to upgrade the status of its Wanita chief to be the equivalent to its deputy president. Bravo, Umno! It doesn’t just make political sense (Wanita Umno is a crucial cog in the party); it’s also a great step forward for women’s stature in the party.
     
  • But let’s not get carried away – Umno can still be as racist and nasty as ever. Case in point: MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, who poked fun at DAP’s RSN Rayer in Parliament yesterday, saying the vibhuti (holy ash) on the latter’s forehead was former Communist Party of Malaya secretary-general Chin Peng’s. Tajuddin (and another MP) was thrown out of the Dewan for the ensuing ruckus, but this is really beyond the pale and this shithead deserves a stiffer punishment.  
     
  • A huge number of Chinese and Indian tourists may be overstaying in the country. The Home Ministry says there are no exit records for more than 95% of tourists from these countries.
     
  • Remember how we heard a couple days ago of former DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s RM1.4 million credit card bill? Well, yesterday the country found out that he owns 18 luxury vehicles! His road tax itself was more than RM35k a year! There are probably rockstars and drug lords who are feeling envious of Zahid’s lifestyle right now. 

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

- Winston Churchill -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The House panel leading an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump says there is “overwhelming evidence” against the US President. No shit, Sherlock.
  • US Democrat party hopeful Kamala Harris has dropped out of the presidential race after a short campaign full of hope but lacking in cash.
  • Australia has controversially repealed a medical transfer law which allows sick refugees held offshore to be treated in the country. The repeal has been slammed as cruel and inhumane.
  • Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page will be relinquishing control of parent company, Alphabet, to current Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Hopefully, Sundar’s father is a little more impressed with his underperforming son now. 
  • Malaria is still infecting millions and killing north of 400,000 people – mainly African children – a year. Why? Because the fight against the illness has all but stalled

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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