CIVIL servants who find themselves at the wrong side of the law in criminal proceedings, the law is clear in its requirement that they take a mandatory leave of absence until their court cases are over.
Should the proceedings end with a conviction, these civil servants will be dismissed from service. If the civil servants are acquitted of all charges, they will be allowed to assume work. The big question here is why similar rules are not applicable to politicians.
In other words, are they truly above the law?
Two political figures that come to mind are former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and current UMNO President Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who, despite their court cases, still hold important posts in the government.
Najib, 67, who was found guilty of seven charges involving criminal breach of trust (CBT), money laundering and abuse of power, was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210 mil. Curiously, though, he is still eligible to carry out his duties as Pekan Member of Parliament until his appeal process is completed, said Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.
Zahid, on the other hand, took a leave of absence in December 2018. To recap, the 68-year-old Bagan Datuk MP had then claimed trial to 45 charges involving CBT, money laundering and corruption. But six months after going on leave, he resumed his post as UMNO president, and by then, he was already facing 87 charges.
Should they even be allowed to compete in the next general elections? Wouldn’t it be better to take a leave of absence to focus on their pending court cases?
These politicians had pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them, so wouldn’t they want to go all out to clear their names?
To quote Centre for a Better Tomorrow (CENBET) vice-president Datuk Simon Lim Seng Chai, “Taking leave is not an admission of guilt but to defend the sanctity of the state’s administration. It is an honourable thing to do.”
But then again, the adamance to cling to power is hardly unique to Malaysia, and is a common occurrence on both sides of the political divide. To these politicians, holding on to power is everything and can be, to some, a golden ticket to freedom from their legal woes. – Mar 2, 2021
Photo credit: Nikkei Asia