KUALA LUMPUR: Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun has rubbished suggestions that he was biased towards Datuk Seri Najib Razak when he said the former premier remained the Pekan MP despite his conviction.
He said under Article 48(1)(e) of the Federal Constitution, an individual is disqualified as a member of either House of Parliament if they have been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or a fine of not less than RM2,000, and have not received a pardon.
However, the Constitution also stipulates that if an application for a pardon was filed within 14 days of the date of conviction, then the disqualification will only come into effect as soon as the petition is disposed of.
“So when I made my statement, I wasn’t expressing my opinion, I wasn’t expressing a ruling – I was just spelling out what the Federal Constitution clearly and expressly provides.
“Those who are disagreeing with me, calling me biased, it is fine – I follow the law,” he said in an interview with The Star.
Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim had questioned the Speaker on Najib’s MP status, saying that Najib was automatically disqualified as an MP as soon as the Federal Court rejected his appeal over his guilty verdict in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case.
Azhar, however, said Najib had filed for a review of the Federal Court decision under Rule 137 of the Federal Court Rules, adding that his MP status remains until the royal pardon and review are disposed of.
He said he is also “perplexed” by allegations made by a lawyer who argued that Article 48 (4) was itself unconstitutional, as it goes against Article 50 of the Constitution.
Azhar added that the Constitution spells out all sorts of general provisions, but at the same time overrides them with exceptions.
“So how can exceptions provided by the Constitution itself be held unconstitutional? Constitutional provisions, no matter how incongruous they are to each other, must be interpreted harmoniously so that all provisions are given effect. That is an established principle of Constitutional interpretation.
“Article 50 says ‘if’ he becomes disqualified – but he hasn’t become disqualified because his disqualification has not taken effect by virtue of his application for pardon and also review,” he said.
The Federal Court on Aug 23 upheld Najib’s 12-year prison sentence and RM210mil fine for the misappropriation of RM42mil in SRC International funds.
He is currently serving his sentence at Kajang Prison.