PETALING JAYA: After a delay of almost two months, a historic milestone will be marked tomorrow when Datuk Seri Najib Razak stands trial for seven corruption charges linked to the RM42mil in funds belonging to a subsidiary of the troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
The Kuala Lumpur Court Complex in Jalan Duta is expected to be swarmed by local and international media for the trial which ironically is just scheduled for a half-day proceeding.
Political analysts said the trial of Malaysia’s former prime minister would be a landmark for the country not just legally but also politically.
Pakatan Harapan swept to power at the general election last year, fuelled in part by voter anger over the 1MDB scandal.
“It is getting close to Pakatan’s one-year anniversary, so people will be eager to follow the trial closely to see how things will unfold,” said Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali said sympathy or support for Najib could grow if the public perceived that the prosecution had not presented enough evidence during the trial.
Also, he believed the trial would also not limit Najib’s ability to continue engaging the public through attending events such as those organised by NGOs.
“The trial will not tie Najib down and I don’t think it will curb his political activities,” he said.
The trial that is linked to SRC International Sdn Bhd was originally slated on Feb 12 but was postponed by the Court of Appeal due to Najib’s four interlocutory appeals.
Last Wednesday, a seven-man bench chaired by Chief Justice Richard Malanjum lifted the stay in the trial after ruling that the appellate court had no jurisdiction over the matter.
The High Court then fixed the one-day hearing, which would start in the afternoon, without fixing further dates.
The court was told that the prosecution was ready to proceed with the trial tomorrow but the defence had reservations as the team was bogged down with other cases involving Najib throughout April.
Lawyer Harvinderjit Singh, who represented Najib, had asked for the trial dates to be moved between May and August instead.
“I don’t see a need to start the trial for just one day,” he had said during the case mention last week.
However, presiding judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali was of the view that the SRC trial should begin as it was of public interest.
It is learned that the prosecution has 63 witnesses in its list so far.
The prosecution has submitted more than 3,000 documents, including SRC International meeting minutes, witness documents and other related documents, to the defence.
Najib’s supporters are expected to come in droves to show their support for “Bossku” (our leader), a slang originating from Sabah that Najib has adopted.
There have been calls from the public for the trial to be televised live via an online petition but it remains doubtful that such a plan would take place.
Najib himself welcomed the idea and said it would help transparency and ensure that the rule of law was adhered to.
“The rakyat has the right to know the truth,” he said in a Facebook posting over the weekend.
The 66-year-old Pekan MP is facing seven charges involving RM42mil in funds belonging to SRC International.
On July 4 last year, Najib claimed trial to a charge of abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust linked to the 1MDB scandal.
He allegedly misappropriated RM42mil in funds belonging to SRC International.
On Aug 8, he appeared in court again for the second time and was charged with three counts of money laundering involving the same RM42mil.
The seven charges are the first set of charges to be tried in court out of the 42 charges levelled against him.
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