Najib was initially slated to be in Parliament in the morning and appear before the court for his trial yesterday afternoon.
However, the court was informed by lead counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah that Najib, who was absent, would be raising a very critical issue in his parliamentary speech, which was pushed to the afternoon session.
“It is not easy to get a slot to give a speech in Parliament. He made the application for the speech two weeks ago, but he was only told that he got the slot a day before I told you,” Shafee said.
“My client sends his utmost apology to Your Honour for not being present.”
Lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said that while the prosecution appreciated Najib’s duty as an MP, it was unhappy with the situation.
“We have other witnesses who are on standby because we don’t know when the cross-examination would be completed.
“They’ve put us in a difficult position. Najib could have informed the Speaker that he should be at court. His absence, therefore, cannot be excused,” Sri Ram said.
Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah then reminded Shafee that the court had agreed to start at 2.30pm yesterday to give way for Najib to be present in Parliament in the morning.
Shafee replied that Najib had persistently been told he had a 2.30pm hearing.
“In fact, he got in trouble for pressuring the clerk of the Speaker that he has a 2.30pm hearing. All media outlets carried the news that the hearing was to resume at 2.30pm,” he said.
Shafee said as an MP, Najib has his parliamentary duty.
“Once in a while, he has to speak. This is the time he has applied and he has been given a slot. If the matter can be put to rest,” Shafee said.
Justice Sequerah: How can you ensure this won’t happen again?
Shafee: The occasion when this trial is postponed has been limited in number. I am due for an eye operation but I had to postpone it because of this trial. When my client had conjunctivitis, we had no choice but to postpone.
Justice Sequerah: This will be the last time of this situation.
The judge then postponed the proceeding and ordered for the hearing to resume today at 9.30am.
Najib had posted on Facebook that his turn for a speech on Budget 2020 was “taken” by “the future eighth prime minister who was given 40 minutes to speak”.
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