Umno wants PM to intervene in Najib’s trial

Leaders demand for prime minister, who was not there, to ask for ex-PM’s hearing extension

(The Vibes) – Umno division chiefs, who gathered for an emergency meeting this morning, had supposedly demanded the prime minister’s intervention in deferring Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s ongoing final appeal on his SRC International conviction.

The Vibes has been informed that this was among a couple of key requests made by the Umno leaders during the closed door meeting chaired by president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the party headquarters here.

For the record, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is Umno vice-president, was not present at today’s pow-wow.

A source familiar with the matter said the leaders implored Ismail Sabri to use his power to seek a three-month extension from chief justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat for Najib to engage new legal representatives.

This comes amid attempts made by Najib’s defence team led by Hisyam Teh Poh Teik to provide an extension to the trial at the federal court to allow them to adequately prepare and argue their case.

After failing in his bid, Hisyam also applied to discharge himself from the case, which was rejected by the court.

Najib subsequently discharged his solicitors from Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners, leaving Hisyam and two others – Low Wei Loke and Kee Wei Lon – as the sole remaining co-counsels.

Apart from the demand for an extension to the trial, the Umno division leaders also apparently made a request for Ismail Sabri to pressure Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun to proceed with the probe into judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

Nazlan was the presiding judge in Najib’s SRC International trial at the Kuala Lumpur High Court when he delivered the guilty verdict in July 2020, sentencing the Umno leader to 12 years in prison and fined RM210 million.

“They want further investigation to show there was bias in Nazlan’s decision, and want his verdict to be rendered null and void, effectively calling for a retrial,” a source said on condition of anonymity.

Najib had previously in June filed an application at the apex court to adduce further evidence to show that there was a conflict of interest involving Nazlan and wants his high court trial invalidated.

Speaking to The Vibes, another Umno source said it is unlikely that Ismail Sabri will accede to these demands having previously, on many occasions, maintained that he would not interfere in the judicial process.

“The prime minister has emphasised on the doctrine of separation of powers and that he cannot and will not interfere in the legal process.”

In today’s meeting which was called by Zahid, it is understood that only 73 of the 191 Umno division leaders had attended, the majority of them aligned to the president and his predecessor Najib.

However, The Vibes was informed that the meeting also became heated after a minority number of leaders had opposed the demands to interfere in the judicial process.

Earlier today, it was reported that the invitation issued to the division leaders had mentioned that the meeting was to discuss a “very important matter affecting the party’s future”.

Among those seen arriving were vice-president Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Sabah chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, Terengganu chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Said, Melaka chief Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh and Tan Sri Shahrir Samad.

Party insiders also indicated that another matter on the table is the littoral combat ship (LCS) controversy, which will impact the party’s image ahead of the general election.

The meeting had adjourned in the afternoon, to allow Zahid to attend his own corruption trial, and is expected to resume later this evening once the party president returns to headquarters.