Najib’s sentence reduction – if true – bodes ill for the nation

ACCORDING to news, former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 12-year jail sentence has been reduced by half.

I hope the news is just mere rumours. I hope so because if it is true, it bodes ill for the nation.

A pardon board’s function is to determine whether a criminal has repented and turned over a new leaf. It’s not its job to predict whether a criminal will turn over a new leaf in the future and arrange for their release before there is confirmation that they have been rehabilitated.

In their first year in prison, many criminals will still likely think that they are innocent or that they can beat the system. They will still believe that they have not done anything wrong and refuse to turn over a new leaf.

They will have 101 excuses as to why they shouldn’t be in jail. During this period, They will study their case history, talk to lawyers and even learn the law to get themselves out of prison.

It is only later on that it will dawn upon them that they can’t beat the system. With hope gone, they might become angry and bitter about their situation. They might feel that the world has been unfair to them or that they are being singled out and punished for something that everybody is doing.

After anger and bitterness, they might go through a period of regret and depression. They will regret the choices they have made in the past and become depressed at the fact that they have lost their future.

It is only after they go through regret and depression, that they will begin the process of their rehabilitation, and transform into a changed person.

They will accept that they only have themselves to blame for being in the circumstances that they are in, and they will understand that to stop being burdened by regret and depression, they will have to change into a better person.

Following their acceptance and realisation, throughout their years in prison, they will gradually transform into a new leaf. By the time they leave the prison, the person who leaves will not be the same as the person who entered.

Sometimes however, if an inmate has a really long jail sentence, but they have already changed into a better person after serving a portion of the sentence, the prison authorities will notice their transformation, and recommend the inmate for a Royal Pardon.

The courts might sentence a criminal to a 20-year jail term because the courts might estimate that the criminal will need 20 years to turn into a new leaf, but if the prison authorities see that they have changed into a new person in six or seven years, the prison authorities might recommend the inmate for a Royal Pardon.

Prison belongs to criminals. If the prison authorities no longer see an inmate as a criminal, even if the person still has a long prison sentence to serve, they might choose to recommend the inmate for an early release, so that he or she is not lumped together with criminals.

Other than releasing inmates who have been rehabilitated before they serve their full sentence, a pardon board could also release inmates if the crime they have been sentenced for has become obsolete.

Until recently, for example, a person who is accused of enticing a married woman could be jailed for up to two years.

This law was abolished in December 2023. If a person was jailed because they violated this law in 2023, perhaps it would be right for them to receive a pardon in 2024, for it is justifiable that they should not be serving prison time for breaking a law that has been made obsolete.

However, with the pardon of Anwar in 2018 or the rumour that Najib’s sentence has been reduced recently, one has to wonder what function the Pardons Board is serving.

Anwar and Najib should not have been pardoned because they have never accepted that they are guilty of the charges laid upon them.

If you never accept that you are guilty, you are never going to see the purpose of turning over a new leaf. If you never turn over a new leaf, what is the point of having the Pardons Board to even look at your case?

If Najib believes that his incarceration is the result of a miscarriage of justice, the right place for him to overturn his sentence is the courts.

If the court upholds its sentence and the inmate has not been rehabilitated but the Pardons Board decides to forgive and free the inmate, it means that the Pardons Board sees itself as the overseer of the courts, which has to step in to fix the court’s mistake when necessary.

This is unlikely to be the function of the Pardons Board.

Our country runs on order. In this order, the constitution is placed at the top, while other institutions like the royalty, the military, the parliament, the Pardons Board, the civil service etc., are all ordered in such a way that they support each other so that together they might support the foundations of the country.

If the Pardons Board acts in a manner that is outside its function, it might upset the order that supports the foundation of the country.

If the Pardons board continues to pardon inmates who neither admit their wrongdoing nor have changed into a new leaf or release inmates who have been found guilty of breaking laws that are still applicable, won’t the prestige of our courts be undermined?

Ex-PM Najib is also facing charges for other crimes in the courts. If he has received a partial pardon from the Pardons Board, what will happen if he is found guilty of his other charges?

Can the courts still sentence him or will they have to drop all of his other charges or will the courts be forced to give him a sentence that does not exceed his release date as granted to him by the Pardons Board?

If the courts are forced to act within a constraint that has been set by the Pardons Board, can our courts still be considered sovereign?

Without order, the function of our laws and institutions might collide with each other. If our laws and institutions keep colliding with each other, it will erode the foundation of our nation.

Considering all this, I can only hope that the rumour that Najib’s sentence has been reduced by the Pardons Board is untrue and merely rumours. – Feb 2, 2024


Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main pic credit: Bernama

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