Dr Mahathir Mohamad today questioned once more what he called the special treatment accorded to Najib Razak despite his conviction for massive financial crimes, adding that the former leader has instead been rewarded by the current government of Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
“What is clear is that the government of Ismail has not adhered to equality before the law as expected by the rule of law.
“No other convicted person in Malaysia has been treated the way Najib is being treated,” Mahathir said in an online post as a heated public exchange continues between him and Najib.
Mahathir, who served as prime minister twice including for 22 years until 2003, recalled the treatment by the police of his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim in 1998 some three weeks after Mahathir sacked him from the Cabinet.
“While the police broke down Anwar’s door and arrested him, handcuffed and threw him into a police car to be detained before he was charged in court, Najib was never arrested or handcuffed or taken to a lockup in a police car,” said Mahathir, referring to Anwar’s dramatic arrest on Sept 20, 1998 after leading protests against him in the capital.
“Clearly the rule of law has not been applied equally between them. All these may be claimed as legal but they are not in accordance with the rule of law,” said Mahathir.
Anwar was later charged with sodomy and power abuse and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. He was again jailed in 2014 over a charge of sodomising a PKR worker, before he was pardoned and released from jail in 2018 under the recommendation of the Pakatan Harapan government led by Mahathir.
Saying the charges against Najib were more serious, Mahathir questioned the freedom of movement granted to the former Umno president.
“As far as it is known, no other person has been treated this way. More than that, he is now allowed to leave the country. Again, there is no such precedent anywhere.
“With Najib remaining free, it has allowed him to undermine the High Court’s decision and inevitably undermine the whole institution. And given Najib’s sphere of influence, he is able to spread this mischief among his followers who are naive and gullible,” he added.
Last year, Najib was sentenced to 12 years’ jail after being convicted of seven charges related to the misappropriation of RM42 million from SRC International. A decision on his appeal has been fixed on Dec 8.
In the weeks following Ismail’s appointment as prime minister, several court decisions favouring Najib led to allegations that the former leader was being given special treatment.
Najib has been under a travel ban since 2018 but recently managed to get back his passport to travel to Singapore later this month.
Last month, he won a bid against the Inland Revenue Board to defer payment of some RM1.7 billion in taxes owed to the government.
In August, meanwhile, some RM114 million in cash confiscated in 2018 was returned to him, following the government’s failure to forfeit the money said to have been misappropriated from 1MDB.
Mahathir said Najib should have been made to serve his sentence or pay the RM210 million fine pending the outcome of his appeal.
“When a person is found guilty, he is guilty until the appeals court decides that he is innocent. But the appeals court has not decided that he is innocent. Therefore, he is guilty and he should serve his sentence. But he is being treated like an innocent person, not paying his fine or jailed.”
He said recent revelations of a plan to approve Najib’s request for a property worth RM100 million as a reward from the government also showed the failure of Ismail’s administration to adhere to equality and the rule of law.
“Yes, other retired prime ministers have been awarded old government houses in recognition of their service. These PMs have not committed any crime and had not been found guilty of stealing government money.”