Justice, not vengeance against Najib, must be seen to be done, HK daily tells Putrajaya

(MMO) – The new Pakatan Harapan government risks polarising the nation along racial lines if it fails to be seen delivering justice when dealing with the corruption trial of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, South China Morning Post (SCMP) wrote in an editorial piece.

The Hong Kong-based paper said the new administration must allow justice to take its course and accord Najib a fair trial so as to avoid allegations that it was exacting vengeance on its political rivals.

This, it added, would act as a good reminder of the importance of transparent checks and balances on power and the limits of public tolerance.

“As prime minister, Najib was accused of derailing efforts to investigate the alleged disappearance of US$4.5 billion from 1MDB. He now faces three charges of criminal breach of trust and one of corruption, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail,” the paper wrote.

“How this matter is handled will be the biggest challenge, involving the restoration of the rule of law and rebuilding of its institutions that a majority voted for otherwise it would run the risk of polarising public opinion on Najib in a racially charged political environment.

“A fair trial, whatever the outcome, would be a reminder of the importance of transparent checks and balances on power and the limits of public tolerance.”

Najib, who lost power in a shock election defeat in May, was arrested and charged on Wednesday in connection with suspicious transactions at SRC International, a former unit of the fund.

The former prime minister has consistently denied any wrongdoing regarding 1MDB and SRC, and on Wednesday pleaded not guilty.

SCMP said now that Najib has been charged, the government must not be seen interfering with the justice system, which the paper also noted that the Mahathir administration have so far done.

“Now that allegations are before the courts the government should let justice take its course and focus on its wider agenda. It may be seen to have acted quickly, if not as swiftly as some wanted, but not without caution,” it said.

Dr Mahathir had repeatedly said in the past that the government wanted indisputable evidence so that judgment was not perceived as reflecting public sentiment but based on facts and evidence in a court of law.